20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

            I have come across a beautiful prose which I’d like to share with you: “I look at a stone cutter hammering away at a rock a hundred times without so much as a crack showing in it.” “Yet, at the 101st blow it splits in two.” “I know it was not the one blow that did it, but all that had gone before.” This is a good illustration of persistence.

            Today’s gospel relates the story of a persistent woman who encounters several obstacles as she approaches and pleads to Jesus. The gospel pictures to us the Canaanite woman whose daughter is possessed by a demon. At first, her cry for mercy is simply snubbed by Jesus. Then the annoyed disciples try to get rid of her. Finally, Jesus addresses her contemptuously as a ‘dog’.

            Still, she persists and perseveres – saying: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” At last, the Lord acknowledges and praises her spirit: “O woman, great is your faith!

            What is great faith? Three things I pick from this story…First, great faith is when you have nothing left and no other recourse, and in desperation you cling fast and call out to your God. Faith is not about the doctrines you know, nor the traditions and practices you hold dear, nor the liturgies and rituals you take part in. It is your personal relationship with God. The relationship you hold on to when the going gets tough. Second, great faith is when you are called a ‘dog’, and you continue to act as a human being. Faith is what it takes to continue believing in your cause against all odds. It is refusing to go down to the level of those who belittle you, want to silence you, or want to send you away. It is making nuisance of yourself, if necessary, to beg God to act in your behalf. Third, great faith is when you do not give up hope, when you take anything for the beloved, and when you firmly believe that goodness will triumph. Faith is when you do not give in to easy solutions, quick fixes, shortcuts, cheap grace. It is refusing to give in to discouragement, hopelessness, despair, depression.

            And, perhaps, the greatest faith is when you take as brothers and sisters even the people who are foreign to you, when you treat people as people and not as dogs, and when you love people more than your pet dog.

            Many are experiencing today what that Canaanite woman experienced…How come God does not respond to our prayers? How come our prayers are met with the silence of God? Bakit hindi pinakikinggan ng Diyos ang dasal natin na wakasan na ang pandemya at krisis na ito?

            For whatever reason, it is essential to understand that at times God appears to be silent. This is an act of deep love on God’s part because it is actually an invitation to turn to him on a very deep level. God’s silence allows us to move from a faith fed by consolations and positive emotions, to a faith fostered by pure trust in his mercy. It is said, “There are days when God seems silent. Don’t worry, sometimes it’s just that silence can only be born from those who love each other.”

            Let us end with a prayer: I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when I am alone. I believe in You, O God…I believe in You, even when You seem to be silent. In the darkest time of my life, in the most troubling moment, I felt the absence of Your presence, I felt numbed, lost, and on the verge of despair. My tears became truly my drink; my pains became my bread. I felt ignored, neglected, and even abandoned by You, O God. Yet, it was from that darkness that I began a new journey…a journey that has led me to living my life more fully in Your light…to a covenant of love that will last forever…to a depth of faith that You have given me…because of Your faithfulness. And I say again: I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when I am alone. I believe in You, O God… I believe in You, even when You seem to be silent. Amen.

            Let us end by singing and praying the song: God of Silence

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