“Thus you will realize what it means to oppose me.
I, the LORD, have sworn to do this…”
“‘O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.’
And her daughter was healed from that hour.”
Do you ever have those days (weeks? months? years?) when it seems nothing goes your way? Personally, I find it all too easy when this happens to assume I have somehow offended or opposed God. Both the Old and New Testament readings today speak of people opposing God’s decrees.
In the first reading, from the book of Numbers, God tells Moses to send scouts into the Promised Land to “reconnoiter,” that is, to gather information. It wasn’t to make a decision about whether to go forward or not, it was simply to verify that it was “indeed a land flowing with milk and honey.” The Lord had already told His people to enter into this land. However, when they see that it will be challenging, they hesitate and balk at going forward. This is often the human response after a period of discerning God’s will. We find out what it will cost us, and we want to take a different, easier route. It is interesting that God doesn’t so much punish Israel as send them back into the desert for further purification.
In the Gospel, it is one Canaanite woman who sets herself in opposition to God, in the form of Christ Jesus. Here, the opposition is of a different sort. She does not refuse to follow God’s direction; she simply refuses to believe He will not help her. Note that when the disciples ask Jesus to send her away, He doesn’t. He engages her in conversation. Perhaps He was testing her faith. Perhaps He was speaking out loud what the disciples were thinking in order to turn it on its head as a lesson for them. Perhaps she did change His mind and show Him that His mission was to the entire world, not just the House of Israel. In any case, she persisted and was rewarded. Her faith in the goodness of God helped her move through the opposition and secure the healing of her daughter.
Both of these readings give me hope for when I feel opposed or challenged. I can ask myself, have I refused some task the Lord has set before me because it was too difficult? Is my faith in God’s goodness being tested? God challenges us in our lives – sometimes to purify us for the work ahead; sometimes to test our faith. In the end, however, if we allow Him, He will use our challenges to bring us closer to Him.
Talib Huff works and volunteers at Christ the King Retreat Center in Citrus Heights, California. You may write to him at [email protected].