20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

            One of the main themes of today’s gospel passage is persistence. Persistence could be compared to ants at work. Put obstacles in their path and they will go around the obstacles, over the obstacles, or under the obstacles. But they will never go back.

            Today’s gospel passage illustrates what persistence is. It relates the story of a determined woman who met a lot of obstacles –the Canaanite woman whose daughter was possessed by a demon. At first, her cry for mercy was simply snubbed by Jesus. Then the annoyed disciples tried to get rid of her. Finally, Jesus addressed her contemptuously as a ‘dog’.

            Still, she persists – saying: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” At last, the Lord acknowledges her indomitable spirit – saying: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” In other words, her great faith, powerfully manifested in her persistence, humility and wit, wins the day. She gets what she needs from Jesus.

            The Canaanite woman awakens in us a feeling of admiration, perhaps even a feeling of envy (in the good sense), because she stands where most of us would like to stand. All of us would want to hear the Lord telling us: “Great is your faith.”

            Great faith overcomes stumbling blocks or obstacles –be it in our pursuit of happiness or fulfillment in life. It conquers hardships, difficulties and adversities –be it in marriage, family or community. It vanquishes doubts, fears and insecurities –particularly about our future. It is great faith that enables a spouse to save their marriage damaged by infidelity or extramarital affair. It is great faith that enables parents to bring up their kids to be the best persons and the best Christians God wants them to be. It is great faith that enables children to take care of their parents as they grow old (at nagiging makulit na) or as they are consumed by terminal illness. It is great faith that enables us to intercede in behalf of others and to make countless sacrifices for their well-being –never giving up on them, never abandoning them.

            It is said that persistence is like wrestling a gorilla. You do not quit when you get tired. You quit when the gorilla gets tired!

            The gospel challenges us to be persons of strong faith who are persistent and persevering in prayer. Faith is not something passive; it is something active and aggressive. It is not sitting back and waiting for God to act. It is standing up and urging God to act. St. Ignatius of Loyola used to say, “Pray as though everything depends on God; but act and be aggressive as if everything depends on us.”

            We have to show that we have “great faith” –faith than enables us to persist and persevere. Be it in our spiritual life – as we strive to be more prayerful or to spend more time communing with the Lord, thus, deepening our personal relationship with him. Be it in our family life – as we try hard to be more understanding, more patient, more forgiving and loving to one another, thus, allowing Christ the King to reign in our home. Be it in our parish life – as we make an effort to serve and share generously our time, talent and treasure, thus, making ourselves good stewards of God’s gifts. Be it in our social life – as we struggle to resist the temptations of materialism and secularism by living out the Christian values, thus, making the kingdom of God our real priority.

            I wish that one day the Lord will tell me: “Nelson, great is your faith.” I am sure you wish the same thing.

            Let us end with a prayer: Lord God, You are able to do far beyond all that I ask or imagine. I come to You with positive expectations, knowing that there is no limit to what you can accomplish. I ask your Spirit to control my mind, so that I can think great thoughts of You. May I not be discouraged by the fact that many of my prayers are yet unanswered. Teach me to wait upon You, to trust You in the dark. Help me realize that the more extreme my circumstances, the more likely I am to see Your power and glory at work in my situation. Instead of letting difficulties draw me into worrying, make me see them as setting the scene for your glorious intervention. May I keep my eyes and mind wide open to all that You are doing in my life. Amen.

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