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Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Ez. 9:1-7; 10:18-22 & Mt. 18:15-20

Ezekiel was God's messenger to proclaim a warning that the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed because of the appalling sins of its people. The prophet told the people that God was not to be blamed for their coming misfortune since they were bringing punishment upon themselves. As a sign of God's good will, the innocent would be spared, marked on their foreheads with the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Tau, which also represents a cross.

Ezekiel's visions were all highly symbolic. It may be that the use of the last letter was intended to mean that the innocent would find salvation only on the last day. That day of the Lord has already arrived with Jesus and yet it is also to come in the future, not as a period of 24 hours, but the era for the unfolding of the kingdom of God - which will reach its perfection with the second coming of Christ.

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” - both signs of more faith than Jesus had encountered in many 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. 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. 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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