“O Woman! Great is your faith!”

This week here in middle Tennessee, we are preparing for what is being called a “once-in-400-year-opportunity” to witness a solar eclipse, which will take place for many of us in the mid-section of our nation during the day on Monday.  It is amazing to think we will get to witness something so rare, and for weeks many people have been blowing up the local community media outlets requesting the now-elusive “solar eclipse glasses”.  No one wants to miss this great event, which will bring great darkness over our part of the world for a few moments.  Many people will travel to cities where the viewing will be best, schools and businesses will close, and all to witness the sun darkening, and accompanied by what some say to be a great quiet.

I know it will be a great moment in history, and the greatness of it exists where the darkness meets the silence.  What is miraculous about our faith can be somewhat similar, as I think what people are really seeking is a great sense of quiet in our lives.  And let me assure you, the quiet is there to be found; and like it says before the movie starts, silence is golden.  The darkness is easily found too, unfortunately, and in order not to fall prey to the moral and spiritual darkness around us, we need to proceed with the spiritual protective glasses (also hard to find and not available on Amazon) which carefully guide us through the truth of God’s word, and give us great faith, like the woman in this coming Sunday’s gospel.

Matthew: 15-21-28

The Canaanite Woman’s Faith.21 Then Jesus went from that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23 But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” 24 He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” 28 Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.

As we gathered for our weekly Encounter With Christ; we prayed and pondered over this scene.  Many of us had the same “lights” (or spiritual realizations) but they came together completing the spiritual insights and resolutions for the week.  Here are some of the shared illuminations:

  • “O Woman! Great is your faith!” God’s love is so merciful.  He is all love.  He seems to cast out the “rules” that are being used to keep others out of the circle of God’s love, and apply the use of mercy instead.
  • The response of the woman is filled with faith and humility.  She recognized Jesus as her master and Lord.  Along with her humility is her persistance.  At first we wonder what Jesus’ plan of action will be, but her response clarifies this for us, as Jesus is moved by her faith.
    • It seems that two virtues that accompany many of those Jesus heals in the New Testament are faith and humility. We have seen similarities in other healing when Jesus gives the person seeking a healing a chance to really come forward and ask for it, to express their desire for it clearly to him.
  • We also see in this woman the faith of a mother; what a mother would do for her suffering child is evidenced here in the way she persists and attempts what some may consider to be impossible.  Her hope as a mother is enduring.
  • Jesus’ initial response to the woman’s request may be difficult to understand.  We wonder if it is cultural to the times or situation, but like last week’s gospel with Peter attempting to walk across the water to Jesus, Jesus seems to be invoking a situation that calls the person’s faith to life.  He almost sets her up in a way to make a point to the crowd perhaps? Maybe as if to remind us that all things are possible with God; He isn’t confined to our human judgement or limited understanding.
  • How can we imitate the woman’s degree of faith in our own lives? I want to hear Jesus say these words to me when I meet him, so I want to try to live my life every day in a way that would evoke this response from him for my own life, “O Woman! Great is your faith!”
  • Lastly, the importance of intercessory prayer was mentioned. We are all called to be intercessors as this woman was for her daughter.  When we pick up the cross for others, and join them in prayer, two important things happen; the first is that we are bringing power to that prayer as Jesus reminded us that when two or more agreed in prayer, he is in our midst.  The second thing is that we emulate Jesus in carry the cross for the sins of the world.  Jesus himself did not sin, but the cross he carried was for all of the sins of the world; past, present and future.

We were also reminded of a story from our yearly retreat in which Fr. William told the story of how a silversmith refines the silver.  Much like Christ, he treats the silver in the fire and purifies it over and over again until he knows it is pure; the point is that in which he can see his own reflection in the silver.  Like Christ, we must carry some crosses in our lives which are hard to bear or understand; but these moments when we seek the Lord in our need, and our faith is called awake, are the very purifying moments in our lives.  It is in this way that we too are purified, and the world can look at us and see the reflection of Christ’s.

Our case study was about a priest who called on his parishioners to give up their cell phones for Lent.  The article that was mentioned told how the priest transposed a scripture to bring some perspective to what Christ may feel about our use of technology, in jest, “The phone you will always have with you, me, you will not always have.” This case brought forth many parallel cases in which we discussed the  use of technology to aid or conflict with our spirituality. Here were some points and perspectives mentioned:

  • Over 40% of people surveyed in the article said they could not live without their phone.
  • A story made NATIONAL news about a group of teenage guys who went to lunch and set their phones in the middle of the table so they could talk without interruption.  The waitress took a picture and the image went viral.  Why is this national news? The site of disengaged phones was so strikingly unusual.
  • Two married women in our group said they have “no cell phone” policies in the bedroom.  The bedroom is off limits for phones so that the evening winds down with discussion about the day and talking with their spouse, not checking emails or facebook.
  • Many of us cited using the “Laudate” app (which we all love!) for reading scripture or listening to reflective podcasts, but also realizing that the when we are using any app and a text message or notification pops up during our prayer time we are easily distracted away from prayer when using our phone/tablet.
  • There is a history of technological noise before technology existed,  A quote from Blaise Paschal in the article referenced for the case reflects this: “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” Also, C.S. Lewis in his book “The Screwtape Letters” describes demons reporting to their master of the success of keeping people from God by keeping their lives noisy with “busy-ness”, written at a time when the most modern form of communication was the radio,
  • Another quote used referenced the fact that due to technology, we may not be “dying” but we are not truly living (when we overuse).

We of course considered the view of the world in the case, understanding that we cannot cut technology out of our lives, especially for the purpose of modern evangelization, as encouraged from the heads of our church.  You can catch the Pope on Instagram, and the vatican news can reach you weekly by way of email from “Zenit” and many other programs and apps, which I have noted in previous posts.  Some people may only ever be reached by these forms of communication as the great majority of their free time and work or school requires it of them, so again, being present in faith in the digital world is necessary for many of us.

Causes and consequences of the case seem to be met in the fact that there is a time and place for technology, and as with all things, it must be tempered.

We identified HOPE as the theological virtue at work in the case this week, as in the gospel for this Sunday, the woman knew her greatest hope for her daughter’s healing was in Christ.  In the case study, hope in Christ on behalf of the priest who called on his parish to give more time to God, and less to their media usage, and for us in the use of technology to strengthen our faith life and be used effectively.  Humanly speaking, we saw the virtue of temperance (to moderate attractions) as the focus for us to try to increase in ourselves over the next week and onward, in the form of our resolutions:

Apostolic (action): I will pray about and choose a person with which I can sit down and have an encouraging conversation with face to face, and put the phone away and give total focus to that person (we can look to the example of the young men who put their phones in the center of the table to have lunch).

Spiritual (prayerful): I will not pick up my phone in the morning until I have take the very first possible moment of my day to sit in silence with the Lord and listen to Him.  To give God my first and best moments of attention each day.

We strive to devote our first moments of the day to God every day, and in particular to find the same spot or location in which to pray.  Identifying this “sacred spot” helps us to regulate our devotion.  The case being this week to concentrate on allowing for the silence in which He can work in us.

As always, we encourage you to join us in our resolutions for the week and we pray every week for those of you who cannot be with us physically, but unite yourselves with us spiritually in Christ.

 

 

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