Friday, 28 August 2020

Lord, Help Me.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta is viewed and to many is a modern-day Saint, tiny though she was. At times she probably wielded the most power of any living person. This was done through humbly serving the most destitute and rejected children of God. In an interview, Mother Teresa once said, "I am but a little pencil in the hand of God as He writes His love letter upon the world!" Though I know the definition of love, I cannot fully comprehend its power when applied to God's created world and people, who, through Jesus Christ, God leads one to serve.

A couple of weeks ago in our lectionary reading from Matthew 15, we heard these words, "Lord help me." The Canaanite woman (a scriptural term for ancient Israel's pagan enemies and here used to designate a Gentile) has complete faith in the ability of Jesus to heal her daughter. Though a Gentile, she calls Jesus Lord, son of David, acknowledging Jesus' lineage. His disciples urge Jesus not to respond, in fact telling Him to send her away. He then answers, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Perhaps this rebuke would have sent most people scurrying away with disappointment, anger, and an unwillingness to try again. However, not this Canaanite Mother.

This woman is determined to get help for her daughter. The Canaanite Mother is no different than many contemporary parents who want something better for their child. Just such a story occurred when parents encouraged their daughter to attend a church summer camping week. The daughter was eighteen years of age, suffered from severe heart deformities and wanted so desperately to be "just like everyone else". It had been extremely difficult for the parents to let her out of their sight, because you see, the doctors had said she had very little time left to live. Though medical science had made tremendous strides in treatment of heart ailments, her particular case was hopeless. 

The best that could be done was provide the most quality life possible under such dire circumstances. After considerable planning by the parents and camp staff, the daughter arrived at camp. She could walk only a few steps without being completely exhausted. The rough terrain made it impossible to use a wheelchair. What to do; the girls in her cabin solved the problem by two of them at a time forming a "chair" by linking their arms together and carrying her from place to place. It was done with genuine caring, a great deal of laughter and equal sharing among her cabinmates. Rather than the experience becoming a burden, it became a ministry to one in the community. No camper nor staff was willing for this particular person to be left out of anything! She was the recipient of parental love willing to take a risk by letting their daughter have a memorable experience. 

The campers experienced selfless love because they willingly embraced her needs and unselfishly saw to them. The result for everyone was a deepening of what it means to "love one another as I have loved you". When news reached the campers and staff that she had died a quiet death within the year, many travelled to her hometown to say goodbye and to reminisce about the experience and learning's they gained from one of their own. Love does indeed change people whose lives it touches. I've always thought those young people who ministered to their peer were indeed little pencils through whom God wrote His love letter upon that gathered community.

The mother in today's Gospel simply will not be put off by Jesus referring to dogs receiving food meant for children. Though this may well be taken as a rather severe rebuke, this Mother will withstand the seemingly derogatory comment, while making her request. She knows she is not considered a believer, but she is also convinced that only Jesus, Son of David, can help her daughter. One can almost visualize her standing face-to-face with Jesus and saying, "......even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Though this woman is a Canaanite, i.e., a Gentile, she kneels in worship, humbles herself and confronts Jesus with her request. She will not be deterred.

Jesus was the only hope for her daughter. How had she heard of Him? Had she been in the crowd of people whom Jesus addressed and taught? Had she held His words in her heart, mulling them over before taking such a brash action? Though a Gentile, had she come to faith over a period of time hearing about Jesus? Was her action of confronting Him what ultimately brought her to faith? She would not willingly depart from Jesus. Rather she was willing to stand before Him and make her request and furthermore, she was driven to her knees as she knelt before Him petitioning Jesus for help. "Lord, help me." 

Such is her faith that she accepted Jesus as being the one who could heal her daughter and restore her child to health. She understood who Jesus was and what He alone could do. This woman is determined to seek help, even at the cost of being called a dog. She knows not whether the disciples will bodily drag her away, but no doubt she would have mightily resisted had they tried. She was totally focused on Jesus. Can we not somewhat identify with this Canaanite woman? If we love someone who is critically ill, do we not pray to Jesus for healing?

"Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed instantly. Through a great and all-encompassing faith, what might be done for each of us? How might we respond to the Lord, Jesus Christ? What sacrifice are we willing to make on behalf of another? He makes all things possible, as He is with us, near us, and in us. "Lord, help me."

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