Lectio Divina- 13
Fr Martin Kallungal
“And suddenly out came a Canaanite woman from that district and started shouting, ‘Lord, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.’ But he said not a word in answer to her. And his disciples went and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Give her what she wants, because she keeps shouting after us.’ He said in reply, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.’ But the woman had come up and was bowing low before him. ‘Lord,’ she said, ‘help me.’ He replied, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to little dogs.’ She retorted, ‘Ah yes, Lord; but even little dogs eat the scraps that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, you have great faith. Let your desire be granted.’ And from that moment her daughter was well again” (Mt. 15:22-28).
In the Mediterranean antiquity it is at the end of a successful conversation and argument that one is accepted as a disciple by a teacher. A prospective disciple must prove his earnest desire and unfailing commitment through his ability to keep the conversation going. In the passage we have read, first, the woman starts a conversation; but, Jesus ignores her. Second, the disciples join in the circle of conversation and plead for the woman; but, Jesus offers a definitive clarification about His unwillingness to address the issue. Third, when the disciples are silenced, the woman speaks again, to which Jesus responds very bitterly, practically iterating His previous position. Fourth, the woman who is, nevertheless, unwilling to give up, takes cues from Jesus’ abusive analogy and justifies her request conclusively. And, at this point Jesus yields and grants her request. God in the Bible is not a cheap God who flirts with humans. He is an expensive Person who reveals only to those who seek for Him seriously. Recall what He says: “When you search for me, you will find me; when you search wholeheartedly for me, I will let you find me” (Jer. 29:13-14). In the passage we have read, Jesus is checking if the woman’s need is genuinely existential and her faith sufficiently strong to stand outright rejections and delays.
Thank you, Holy Spirit, for inspiring the evangelists to include the details of this event in the Gospels. It gives me a programmatic description of personal spiritual relationship with God. Everyone knows that to pray is to converse with God. But, no one knows what to do when prayers are ignored, rejected, and ridiculed. Lord, I used to react variously: sometimes I stopped praying, and sometimes I ignored You for long. Lord, I am sorry. Today, this great gentile woman teaches me that I must humbly argue my case before You. It is interesting to know that you love arguments, that you want us to argue and prove that you alone are our refuge and it is in you alone that we put our trust. Yes, Lord, I may be ignored, and my requests rejected; and yet I must keep praying for the same thing in different words and for new reasons.
How do we find rest when my prayers remain unanswered? Like Job, often, we cry to God, and He gives us no answer; we stand before Him, but He takes no notice (cf. Job 30:20). But, the Scripture tells us that it is possible to rejoice in God our Saviour even when “the g tree is not to blossom, nor will the vines bear fruit, the olive crop will disappoint, and the fields will yield no food; the sheep will vanish from the fold; no cattle in the stalls” (Hab. 3:17).
Recall one or another unanswered prayer in life. Examine if you are honestly serious about the request you placed before God. If yes, then resume the prayer as a conversation; don’t hesitate to argue with God in case he ignores or rejects or ridicules your desires.