Tuesday, August 08, 2017

"Lord, Help Me"

How long will this wicked community grumble against me?  I have heard the grumblings of the Israelites against me.  Tell them: “By my life”—oracle of the LORD— “I will do to you just what I have heard you say. Here in the wilderness, your dead bodies shall fall. Numbers 14:27-29A

But the woman came and did him homage, saying, "Lord, help me." He said in reply, "It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters." Then Jesus said to her in reply, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish."  Matthew 15:25-28A

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.      

Another day, another in the variety of ways that Jesus responds to a request.  Although today’s healing does not take place at a meal, Jesus and the woman with the tormented daughter use food imagery. 

Today’s reading once again catches Jesus trying to withdraw from the people…but he could not resist the cry of the poor.  Yet, count on the ever-trusty disciples to usher away people when they flocked to the Good Shepherd. 

In the Hebrew Bible, Canaanites are in a list of nations to exterminate.  Later, they are described as a group annihilated by the Israelites.  Despite this history, the woman appeals to Jesus. 

Jesus hears and answers. The persistent woman appealed on behalf of another (the least of these – her long-suffering, tormented daughter).  Jesus answered her prayers answered despite the historic animosity between Israel and the Canaanites.  No one who appeals to Jesus for mercy is ever turned away – especially those who acknowledge him as Lord – three times. 
  1. "Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!”
  2. "Lord, help me."
  3. "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters."
She asks only for the crumbs, the leftovers, that fall from the table of Israel – exactly what Jesus fed to his disciples after the miracle of feeding the five-thousand men and uncounted women and children.  Like with the Roman centurion’s son, the miracle of the healing happens far away from the main dialogue and action. The greater point of this story is the persistent faith of a woman who asks for something that she knows in her heart that she does not deserve. And she gets it anyway.

Jesus’ mercy toward an enemy of his people is instructional for our times as the saber-rattling intensifies between the United States and North Korea. As we contemplate what exactly is meant by a fire and fury “the likes of which this world has never seen before” just provides another model.

The Just War theory, with us since the time of Augustine, attempts to codify how the use of arms might be restrained, made more humane, and ultimately directed towards the aim of establishing lasting peace and justice.  Key among the conditions necessary for a “just war” are:[i]
  • A just war can only be waged as a last resort. All non-violent (diplomatic) options must be exhausted before the use of force can be justified.
  • A war is just only if it is waged by a legitimate authority. Even just causes cannot be served by actions taken by individuals or groups who do not constitute an authority sanctioned by whatever the society and outsiders to the society deem legitimate.
  • A just war can only be fought to redress a wrong suffered. For example, self-defense against an armed attack is always considered to be a just cause (although the justice of the cause is not sufficient--see point #4). Further, a just war can only be fought with "right" intentions: the only permissible objective of a just war is to redress the injury.
  • A war can only be just if it is fought with a reasonable chance of success. Deaths and injury incurred in a hopeless cause are not morally justifiable.
  • The ultimate goal of a just war is to re-establish peace. More specifically, the peace established after the war must be preferable to the peace that would have prevailed if the war had not been fought.
  • The violence used in the war must be proportional to the injury suffered.  Nations are prohibited from using force not necessary to attain the limited objective of addressing the injury suffered.
  • The weapons used in war must discriminate between combatants and noncombatants. Civilians are never permissible targets of war, and every effort must be taken to avoid killing civilians. The deaths of civilians are justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target.

Jesus extending his healing touch to the Canaanite woman is an apt symbol for this day.  Let us use this to reflect upon how we might be instruments of the healing, peaceful touch of Jesus.

Sometimes Christians are called to turn the world upside down. To bring the exact opposite of what we find in our world. St. Francis' prayer is a bold one, asking for strength to give of ourselves to meet the needs of others. He recognizes that it "is in giving that we receive", that as we give of ourselves, we receive the peace and blessing of our risen Lord Jesus. We cannot earn eternal life, but that we are pardoned from the sins that block our claim on it.  Think about the situations that you are involved in that require peace, consolation, hope, light, and joy.  Then, if you're bold enough, pray the prayer![ii]

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