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The Power of Faith
Reflection on the Gospel for August 9, 2023
In today’s Gospel, a Canaanite woman approaches Jesus and begs Him to help her daughter who is tormented by a demon. Jesus’ response to the woman at first seems strange as He does not immediately give her what she asks. He says to her, “It is not good to take the bread of the children, and to cast it to the dogs.” (Matt. 15:26 DRB) However, the woman continues to persist two more times, until finally Christ gives her what she asks. As Scriptures tells us, “Then Jesus answering, said to her: O woman, great is thy faith: be it done to thee as thou wilt: and her daughter was cured from that hour.” (Matt. 15: 28)
Although at first sight, this Gospel can seem quite difficult to interpret, a deeper look into Christ’s words to the woman reveal an important lesson. As He does other times in Scripture, Christ tests the faith of the woman. He gives her a chance to show her trust in Him. The woman passes the test, displaying her strong faith in Christ. Although she is a Canaanite, Jesus demonstrates that what really matters in a person is the purity of their heart. Since the woman has true faith, her heart has already begun to be purified. St. Thomas Aquinas points out in his Summa Theologiae, “The first beginning of this movement is faith: since ‘he that cometh to God must believe that He is,’ according to Hebrews 11:6. Hence the first beginning of the heart's purifying is faith; and if this be perfected through being quickened by charity, the heart will be perfectly purified thereby.” (ST, II, q. 7, a. 2)
In this Gospel, we see how important our faith is to Christ. In each person, he looks for this trust in Him. True faith requires abandonment of one’s intellect and will to God. Pope Paul VI writes in his dogmatic constitution, Dei Verbum, “’The obedience of faith’ (Rom. 16:26; see 1:5; 2 Cor 10:5-6) ‘is to be given to God who reveals, an obedience by which man commits his whole self freely to God, offering the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals,’ (4) and freely assenting to the truth revealed by Him.” (DV 5) Faith, then, requires humility, which enables a person to trust God, to hold as true something he cannot entirely grasp himself. He sees himself as God sees him and is able to trust in God as a child does his father. St. Thomas Aquinas writes of humility, “Humility means seeing ourselves as God sees us: knowing every good that we have comes from Him as pure gift” (Summa Q161)” We see this in the woman in today’s Gospel who demonstrates her strong faith in Christ, a faith which she shows in her humility before Christ.
We can learn from the woman in this Gospel by trusting in God in difficult moments, believing that He has our good in His hands. He is in control of everything and He will take care of us; we need only ask for what we need in faith. St. Edith Stein, whose feast is today, beautifully illustrated this faith throughout her life, especially in her martyrdom. Like the Canaanite woman in the Gospel for today, whom Jesus praised for her faith, St. Edith Stein was a woman of great faith and trust in Christ. Her faith is beautifully summed up in her words: “And when night comes, and you look back over the day and see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands and leave it with Him.”