On the Woman of Chanaan.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On the Woman of Chanaan.
For the purpose of giving Himself and His apostles a little rest, our Lord, after administering His reprimand to the Pharisees, withdrew to the more secluded hill-country to the north of Galilee, on the borders of Tyre and Sidon. “And behold a woman of Chanaan who came out of those coasts crying out, said to Him: Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously troubled by a devil. Who answered her not a word.” (St. Matt. xv. 22.) Here we find Jesus, in whom “the goodness and kindness of God our Saviour appeared” upon earth, He of whom it is said that He “went about doing good,” treating most sternly a poor suppliant, a woman who implores His aid in her affliction. Is He not the loving Saviour who compassionates all His children? Why then is He apparently so unkind to this unhappy petitioner?
1st. Jesus rejects the prayer of the woman out of obedience to the decree of His Father. “I was not sent but to the sheep that are lost of the house of Israel.” (v. 24.) Such are our Lord’s words, and in them He gives the reason of His apparent harshness towards the woman who entreats His mercy. Consider this attentively, my soul. Primarily and indeed exclusively our Lord’s mission was to the Jews; His public, personal ministry was entirely directed to them. God the Father made a solemn promise that the Messias should come of the seed of Abraham, and that in Israel, through Israel, all the nations of the earth should be blessed. (Gen. xxii. 18.) Now behold and admire the obedience, the self-denial, the inexhaustible patience Jesus displayed, expending as He did all the labor, the exertions of His life on earth on the thankless, stiff-necked people of Israel. How much more readily would the Gentiles have received His doctrine! He, the Lord of all those nations, beheld them, as He Himself declared when sitting at Jacob’s well, as vast fields of wheat white already to harvest, prepared to receive the tidings of salvation, and He felt drawn to go to those countries the inhabitants of which were desirous to be saved, as we see from His going to the coasts of Sidon; but obedient to the divine behest He did not cross the border. Learn from this, my soul, to bend in patient renunciation of your own will to the yoke of obedience, and not to murmur if an ungrateful and unfertile sphere of activity is allotted you, though you yourself know where you could be far more useful, effect much more good. Remember we shall not be called to give an account of the amount that we have done, but whether in what we have done we have fulfilled the will of God. It is not the success of his work that renders the monk holy and blessed, but the exactness of his obedience. God can spread His kingdom on earth without you and what you may achieve, but without Him, without accomplishing His will, you cannot ensure for yourself a place in that kingdom in spite of the success that may attend your labors.
2d. Consider how the want of response on our Lord’s part stimulated the disciples to intercede on the woman’s behalf. “His disciples came and besought Him, saying: Send her away, for she crieth after us.” (v. 23.) Intercessory prayer is exceedingly pleasing to Almighty God. Our Lord throughout His whole life on earth prayed for mankind, and now in Heaven He continually intercedes for us. The apostle says: “We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the just” (I. St. John ii. 1); all the saints, following His example, spent much time in prayer of this nature, and every truly devout, large-hearted Christian, in whom Christ dwells, who has at heart the salvation of his fellow men, will pray more, be more willing to pray for others than for himself. It is a test whereby the measure of a man’s perfection may be gauged, whether he is or is not given to intercessory prayer. The ordinary imperfect Christian almost invariably prays for temporal blessings, the more advanced in sanctity prays for what is eternal, while the perfect man obeys the precept of the Apostle, when he enjoins on us: “I desire therefore first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all men; for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.” (I. Tim. ii. 1, 3.) To what extent have you, my soul, acted in conformity with this exhortation? You desire to be saved; do you not know wherein the chief occupation of the redeemed in Heaven consists? First in praising God; then in interceding for man. Prove yourself qualified to join that blessed company.
3d. Our Lord rejected the woman’s petition with a view to her spiritual welfare. Dionysius, the pious Carthusian, asserts that the prayer of the woman was not granted immediately, in order that she might urge it with more insistence, and that it might be granted in more abundant measure. And St. Jerome says: “The faith of the suppliant was purified and increased by the grief which the apparent refusal of her entreaty caused her, and also by an interior enlightenment which resulted from her near approach to Christ. At first she calls Him the Son of David: ‘Have mercy on me, Thou Son of David.’ Then she calls Him ‘Lord’ and finally she adores Him.” Learn from this not merely to be persevering in your prayers, not to grow weary if the Lord delays to answer them, but also to perceive the reasons why our Lord often appears to act hardly towards you, why He withholds all consolation from you for so long a period. His design in doing so is with you, as it was with the woman, to enlighten your faith and cleanse your soul more fully. You must not cease to pray and do good in seasons of desolation when our Lord appears to deal hardly with you, but like the woman, humble yourself the more, believe more confidently, cleanse your heart more completely from earthly dross. A disciple of St. Francis once began to complain bitterly in one such period of desolation; Brother Giles then said to him: “We cannot gather in the fruits of the earth without exertion and without previous labor. And even then the fruit we desire does not appear immediately after our toil has been spent to produce it, it does not come until the summer is here. In like manner God does not immediately bestow on man the blessings asked in prayer; He waits until the opportune moment comes, until the soul is cleansed from all earthly desires and purified from every vice. Wherefore, my Brother, go on working in the spirit of humility, for God, who is all-abounding in bounty and grace, knows all things and chooses what is for your greater good, and when the right time comes, He will in His mercy lavish on you the fulness of consolation.” Lay these precious truths to heart, my soul. Persevere humbly in your supplication as the woman of Chanaan did, and to you also will the comforting words at length be addressed: “Great is thy faith; be it done to thee as thou wilt.” (v. 28.)
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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