You’ve heard before the two famous questions about heaven, but, for fun, let’s ask them here: Who wants to go to heaven? Raise your hand, please! Who wants to go there tomorrow?
Our response is amusing because it reveals that we say we want to be with God, but not really. We’d rather be here on earth than with Him. Wanting to go to heaven as soon as possible doesn’t mean having a death wish, because life is worth living. However, it means we should want the greatest gift when it’s God’s plan for us.
Our subject today is waiting. In the Gospel today, Jesus makes a woman in need wait. Why does He wait to heal her daughter? We ourselves may wonder why we have to wait for healing, to have a child, get married, buy a home in Vancouver, or for someone we love to come back to Jesus—and we should wonder why, because it’s in prayer that we can receive the answer. Part of the answer is that, when we wait a long time for something, we should start to realize that we’re made for something greater; and then that should start us desiring heaven, to be with God forever, which is the greatest gift!
Now let’s ponder two parts from the Gospel: Jesus’ actions and the woman’s response.
1) Jesus ignores the woman three times. The text says, “But he did not answer her at all” (Mt 15:23); He says to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (she’s not Jewish) (24); finally, He says, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs” (26). All the saints admit that this is strange behaviour: It’s not right to ignore people; there’d have to be a just reason to do so. Yet, knowing the Bible, we recognize that this isn’t Jesus’ normal way of acting. This is a man Who spends all day healing the sick (Mk 1:21-34), goes to lepers who were outcast (Mt 8:1-4), and has mercy on a woman caught in adultery (Jn 8:2-11). So, there’s good reason He’s acting this way. And, eventually He heals her daughter anyway and compliments her faith, so He’s not trying to hurt her. What’s the reason?
The first reason is that Jesus is strengthening her. Jesus adapts Himself to people. We’ve said before: like any good mentor, Jesus is gentle with the weak, but strong with the strong.
St. Ignatius says that, when we’re committing grave sins that we know are wrong (getting drunk, watching pornography, having sex outside of marriage), God stings our conscience out of love. Yet, when we’re trying to grow spiritually, God makes spiritual growth sweet and doesn’t burden our conscience.
In the case of this woman, she’s extremely strong, and so Jesus puts her faith under stress to make it stronger, but He doesn’t do this with everyone. In her case, she demonstrates increasing faith, from shouting after Jesus, to kneeling before Him, to humbling herself.
The second reason Jesus seems to deny her is that He doesn’t want her to be entitled. When Jesus says, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs,’ this is a reminder that we don’t have a right to demand things from God. God loves all of humanity, and, in Genesis, all of humanity rejects God in terrible ways. So God looks for anyone who will love Him in return: At first, it’s Seth, then Noah, Abraham, etc, who are the origins of the Jewish people. These people weren’t perfect, but trusted God, and so He made a covenant with them. These are God’s ‘children,’ and His hope is to rebuild His family by adopting all of us into it. But this woman is not Jewish.
2) This brings us to her response: She can’t say, ‘Jesus, You owe me. You promised in Your covenant.’ No, He didn’t. All she could say is, ‘You don’t owe me anything. So, I just ask for mercy.’ This is why all the saints see her as the model of faith and humility, because she never gives up or becomes bitter towards Jesus.
As hard as it may be to accept, God makes us wait for our good. It makes us more appreciative of Him, because most people use God. Ingratitude and entitlement are damaging: They damage marriages, friendships, and relationships at work.
I think good parents make their children wait—would you agree?
This is how Dr. Ray Guarendi, Catholic family psychologist, answers a question in his audiobook (and I’m showing his picture and listening to his voice because I hope you’ll get to know him), “Dear Dr. Ray, my fifteen-year-old daughter embarrassed herself and me at her birthday party. She acted very ungrateful for her gifts. How can I teach her to be more appreciative of all she has? Give her less. That’s my short answer… There’s a direct relationship between what kids have and how grateful they are for it… The more they get, the less they appreciate it… If your daughter’s birthday is like most these days, the gifts number between ten and twenty, and that’s not counting the gifts given to the siblings so that they don’t feel ‘left out.’ (For the life of me, I don’t know how that practice got started. Siblings should feel left out of the gifts; it’s not their birthday!) … Through learning that life is not a candy store with limitless dispensers, your daughter will learn that receiving is a privilege, not a right… Children don’t feel appreciation or gratitude naturally. They learn it by slowly coming to understand that much of what they receive is not an entitlement. And when they act as if it is, we must act to show them it is not. How? By giving them less than they want and by expecting them to act with gracious appreciation when they receive. If they do not, they will lose what they thought was theirs” (Good Discipline, Great Teens, 158-159).
God doesn’t owe us healing or a spouse; we don’t have a right to a child or to own a home in Vancouver. And when we suffer while waiting, we hopefully start to realize: I’m made for more; I’m not made to live on this earth forever. We start to want something so much better, to be with God for all eternity!
It’s the Sabbath Summer now, but is anyone already looking forward to their next vacation??? That’s because we long for eternal rest, the eternal Sabbath!
Here are three quick applications of this teaching on spiritual waiting:
1) Journey Through Scripture is starting on Thursday night, September 14, 2023. When we understand the big picture of the Bible, then so many things make sense, such as why God makes us wait. This is for disciples wanting to deepen their following of Jesus.
2) We’re starting Alpha in three weeks, and the woman in the Gospel reminds us that the human heart is looking for Jesus. She also reminds us that some non-Christians often have more humility and openness to faith than we do. Please say, ‘Hey, our church is running a program exploring faith. It’s free, there’s a great dinner, a video, and discussion.’ This week, there will be moments to invite people—seize those moments! 80% of people who actually attend Alpha do so because of personal invitations, so let’s just invite, but leave the result up to the Holy Spirit, Who is the One Who touches hearts.
3) I’ll give a Parish Centre update during the announcements. God doesn’t owe us a Parish Centre, but our parish leadership does owe you results. We’ve waited a long time, and we have to discern what the Lord wants us to do.
We’re made to receive good things. And waiting should make us realize that we’re made for something infinite and eternal, to be with God.