THE POWER OF TESTED FAITH Reflection for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

It is a global fact that you must pass a test before you get licensed for anything that requires professional competence. For instance, you would need a license to drive legitimately, and to obtain a license, you must have passed a test. This is also valid for medical personnel like doctors.

The license is proof that you passed a test that legitimizes your operations. Notice that the first thing the police officer does when you are pulled over is to ask for your driver’s license to know if you qualify to drive in the first place.

Did you know that in our dealings with God, there are some tests we need to pass to qualify for a next level encounter? Recall that the Book of Genesis (22:1a) says: “After these things God tested Abraham.” The truth is that not only Abraham deserved to be tested, but every one of us should and will be tested. It is only when we are tested that we can be trusted.

The Gospel narrative this Sunday (Matt. 15:21-28) should be understood as a contrast to the Gospel narrative last Sunday on the encounter between our Lord Jesus Christ and Simon Peter in the middle of a windstorm at the Sea of Galilee. Recall that Jesus blamed Peter for his little faith when he began to sink, frightened by the storm.

The Faith Test of the Canaanite Woman

In the Gospel narrative today, a Canaanite woman from Tyre and Sidon approached Jesus and said, “Have pity on me, Lord Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon”. The first thing in this statement is the woman’s thorough knowledge of the office and mission of Jesus and her informed understanding of her daughter’s situation as being demonic.

She did not only call Jesus Lord, but she also touched on a name that describes the mission of Jesus; “Son of David,” which means the Messiah or Savior. In other words, she was appealing directly to the office of the savior to save!

Notice that our Lord’s initial reaction was silence. Question: did Jesus hear her? Yes! So, in case you are wondering if God heard you when you prayed and did not get any response, he heard you. He could be waiting for you to come up higher.

When the Lord’s silence continued despite the woman’s persistence, the disciples intervened and begged Jesus to send her away instead of allowing her to disturb them. But Jesus did not stop her because God does not discourage us from praying, especially if we come with persistent faith.

Responding to her, Jesus said that his mission was targeted at the lost sheep of the house of Israel. In other words, the Canaanite woman was “excluded.” The Lord’s statement could have made the woman step down; instead, she came closer to the Lord respectfully, as if bridging the gap between Jews and Gentiles, and said: “Lord, help me!” Again, Jesus gave another repulsive response “It is not right to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

What the woman responded afterward would melt anyone’s heart. She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” She accepted the lowly status of a dog but still saw hope in that status.

At this point, Jesus responded, saying to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish”. The woman underwent a faith test with the Lord’s silence and “unaccepting” utterances. Jesus wanted her to prove that what she said about him came from a heart of faith, not just what she heard.

Imagine Peter watching this episode and hearing the Lord say to a Gentile, “O woman, great is your faith!” A sharp contrast to what the Lord said to him, a Jew, a few hours earlier, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” It is not all about how long you have been around the Lord but how deep the Lord is in you!

How to Pass the Test of Faith

Follow the Lord: To the first disciples he called, Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18-19). Following the Lord is a powerful index of faith because it involves intentional disconnection from other things to align with him.

Simply put, you can only pass a faith test if you follow the Lord with your mind fixed on him. This was exactly what the Canaanite woman did. Immediately she met Jesus, she gave up on other things and followed him.

We live in a world where people follow certain people just to be identified with them and where others seek followers to increase their relevance. Whom you follow has much to do with what you get out of life!

Don’t Give Up: Persistence is the word. The Gospel of Luke (18:1-8) tells us about another woman who was highly importunate over a favor she wanted from a wicked judge. She was so persistent that the judge was compelled to grant her what she requested.

Looking at the Canaanite woman, we notice the same persistent disposition. Recall that our Lord’s silence and “unfriendly” words could not stop her. Her mind was made up, and she would stop at nothing until the Lord granted her wish.

Did you know that God enjoys persistence in prayer much as it demonstrates our faith quotient? Abraham was persistent over Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen.18; 22:33). Elijah prayed for the rain to come after three and a half years of drought (1 Kings 18:42-44). The blind Bartimaeus did not give up until Jesus gave him attention (Mark 10:46-52). And many more instances.

Moving Forward: Will You Pass Your Faith Test?

The Canaanite woman remains a dependable instance of a good student of faith who passed the test set purposely by the Lord. Recall that she followed the Lord with every inch of persistence and made it through.

You may think the Lord is far from you; he is very near you. He says, “Call to Me, and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’ (Jer. 33:3).

You may feel like giving up after praying for a while; don’t give up! Pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). In the First Reading (Isaiah 56:1, 6-7), God says, among other things, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” We know from 1 Corinthians (3:16-17) that we are that house, so we keep praying without being weary as “we will reap at harvest time if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6:9).  

Did you know you may be a prayer away from what you need the Lord to do for you? So don’t give up; pass your test and obtain your faith license.

God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie.                 

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