The Gospel reading from the Mass for Wednesday of the 18th Week of Ordinary Time is Matthew 15:21-28.

After clashing with the Pharisees, Christ withdrew to the Gentile territory of Canaan. Tracing back to the time of Noah, the man Canaan was from an incestuous union of Noah’s son, Ham, and Noah’s wife; from that time, Canaan, his descendants and the land named after him were cursed (Gen 9:18-25). The pagan Canaanite women’s screaming plea to Christ is a bold act of a desperate mother: Canaanites and Jews had centuries-old animosity; women didn’t approach a men directly in that culture; a pagan didn’t approach a rabbi. The Canaanite woman’s desperate screams for her demon-possessed daughter are an act of astounding faith; she addresses Jesus as “Lord” and “Son of David” and begs for mercy with heart-felt faith that Christ can heal her daughter.

Christ first ignores her incessant screaming pleas for help. The woman’s cries upset the disciples who ask Christ to send her away; Christ also ignores the disciples request, instead, reminding them that His priority are the “lost sheep of Israel” (Matt 10:5-6). The persistent woman then quietly kneels at His feet and begs for help.  Christ refuses, likening her and her people (Canaanites) to dogs, scavengers unworthy of holy blessings.  Undeterred, the women humbly accepts the insult and, again calling Him “Lord”, obediently begs for “scraps” like a little dog at her master’s feet. Her surrender and faith is complete.

In a stunning reversal, Christ exclaims, “O woman, great is your faith!”; Christ seldom uses “O” and it is an intimate encouragement to her; His use of “woman” recognizes her dignity as one of His children. He instantaneously heals the woman’s daughter. Rather than being coldly harsh, Christ acts deliberately, with Divine Wisdom, to test and draw out the woman’s faith, to make clear His Divinity and to offer the disciples a lesson in responding with Divine Mercy to persistent souls in need.

Awed by Jesus ChristSon of David, Christ is recognized as the long-awaited Messiah, even among pagans. Divine King, Christ has a clear mission with an initial focus on calling Israel, rebukes with authority and tests would-be miracle seekers to test their faith. Divine Mercy, Christ responds to those who approach Him in faith. Son of God and Divine Physician, Christ casts out demons with a word and offers instantaneous healing to the demon-possessed.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) In a misguided attempt to make Christ “attractive”to modern sensitivities, some present Christ as exclusively meek and mild, merciful without qualification. Marvel at Christ’s use of tough language and actions to challenge and awaken people’s faith.

2) Many men fail to pray and all men can become lax in their prayer disciplines. Reflect on the need to Persevere in Prayer (CCC 2742-2745) and pray for Christ to inspire you to pray always, praising Him and begging for His Grace.

3) As opposed to the Canaanite women’s fervent prayer, Catholic men can fall into the ditch of seeing prayer as a duty or chore, cranking through their to-do list of the Rosary or other prayers so they can get to the “real” priorities. Reflect on the Battle of Prayer (CCC 2725-2741) contemplate your own prayer life and pray for Christ to give a prayer life that causes Him to say to you, “O man, how great is your faith!”

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Glorious Mysteries

Daily Devotion – Saint Joseph

Virtue of the Day – Temperance

Corporal Work of Mercy – To visit the imprisoned

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To comfort the sorrowful