Catholic Men’s Daily Devotional and Bible Study – 18th Week in Ordinary time – Wednesday – 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 born 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 a 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 a heart-felt faith that Jesus could 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. Jesus 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; 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 Christ – Son 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”, some present Christ as exclusively meek and mild, merciful without qualification. Reread today’s Gospel and realize that Christ is often tough-minded, combative and directive.
2) 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 their “real” priorities. Contemplate your own prayer life and consider the Canaanite woman’s fervent intercessory prayer. Upon hearing your prayer, does Christ say, “O man, how great is your faith?”
3) God’s infinite mercy is available to those who fervently seek Him; He will not turn away the humble sinner with contrite heart who begs for mercy. Reflect on your own many sins and go to Confession in humble repentance and experience Christ’s Divine Mercy.
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