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Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Num. 13:1-2, 25-14:1, 26-29, 34-35 & Mt. 15:21-28

The lsraelites found it tough in the wilderness. Their past should have told them that their God really cared for them. They had been slaves in Egypt where life was unbearable but with extraordinary signs God freed them from the tyranny of Pharaoh leading them through the wilderness and seeing that they were fed.

Now they were on the point of being able to enjoy living in a land that was prosperous. They were to trust him a little longer before they reached there but they didn't, and as a result those who complained did not enter the Promised Land. They displeased God. In time of adversity they showed their true colours. They failed God.

We can admire the courage, faith and persistence shown by the Canaanite woman in today's Gospel reading. As a Gentile and a woman, she was not someone with whom a good Jewish teacher would associate, as she was no doubt well aware. Yet her need was greater than any fears or scruples she may have had about approaching Jesus. It is also remarkable that she believed in His power to heal her daughter and addressed Him as 'Lord' - signs of more faith than Jesus had encountered in many of the Jews although they had seen His miracles and heard Him preach. He did not respond at first and the disciples asked Him to send her away. He told her that He was only sent to help the Jews, but it did not dissuade her. Showing her faith and humility, she knelt before Him and asked for His help. Jesus' reply would have been enough to discourage most, but she came up with a shrewd answer. He was impressed not just because it was clever but because of the attitude it showed. She did not deny that she was not one of the children of Israel but was humble enough to accept this fact, and to claim only the scraps from the table knowing, in faith, that even a scrap of Jesus' abundant powers would be enough to heal her daughter.

Jesus wants us all to have this sort of untiring faith and persistence in approaching Him. If our prayers are to be as urgent as those of the Canaanite woman we need to understand how much we need Him. With this sort of understanding and the same urgent desire to be healed, we will pray to Jesus day and night to help and bless us. The woman was not sure if a Jewish teacher would help her, but we know that our loving Saviour welcomes all who come to Him and longs to pour out His blessings on us. At times it may seem as if our prayers meet with no response, but this is when we should persist in them all the more.

Lord Jesus, when we are in the grip of adversity, help us not to be like the Israelites complaining and ungrateful, but like the Gentile woman You helped, trusting that You will look after us and never desert us.

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