Faith matures through adversity: How we can stand the test

| Deacon John Powers | August 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

PraySillFor the 20th Sunday in ordinary time, the Church gives us three readings about the Gentiles. Our first two readings give us a positive image of the relationship between God and the Gentiles, and I especially like the first reading, Isaiah’s prophecy about “the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord.” But I find the Gospel challenging because I am a Gentile, and so Christ’s interaction with the Canaanite (Gentile) woman is personally disturbing because he seems unwilling to minister to her and, by analogy, to us.

Jesus starts our Gospel by doing something strange: He goes to the region of Tyre and Sidon. I grew up in Northeast Minneapolis, and one of the great things about Northeast is that our many parishes still have a lot of character (and characters) from the ethnic communities that founded them. Tyre and Sidon are the heart of Gentile territory in the Judea-Palestine area, and this is the only time Jesus goes there. Jesus was expecting to encounter Gentiles by traveling there; just like if you or I went to Holy Cross parish, we would expect to encounter Polish people. Or if we went to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, we would encounter Italians.

Just before leaving for this region, Jesus expresses disappointment with the Jews’ and even the apostles’ lack of faith. With this in mind, we should see Jesus’ interaction with the Gentile woman as a test of her faith so that when she persevered, she would be an example to his disciples and through them to all ages.

And now we get to the hard part, because this testing of faith didn’t stop with the Gentile woman or the apostles; it is also part of our lives. As members of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, we have been through a very rough year in which we have been heavily tested. But like the Gentile woman, who persisted even when apparently rebuffed by Christ, we have to continue in faith to pray, offer penance and work for true healing, because faith matures through adversity.

The first reading helps reassure us even in this difficult reality — it is a response to Isaiah 56:3, where foreigners express fear that they are no longer part of God’s people because of their trials. It is absolutely essential to remember that God is always with us, even if in times of adversity, we do not feel like he is, because he has joined us to himself through the sacrament of baptism. As Paul reminds us in the second reading, God’s gifts and call are irrevocable. We have received Christ in faith, and he will provide for us. We must abide in faith, even though we are tested, because as Paul reminds in 2 Corinthians 9, the power of Christ is made perfect in our weaknesses.

Please pray for me, and for all those who work for the Church, that we will endure in this path to holiness. We are praying for you that you will do the same.

Deacon Powers is in formation for the priesthood at the St. Paul Seminary for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. His teaching parish is St. Hubert in Chanhassen. His home parish is Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Minneapolis.


Sunday, Aug. 17
Twentieth Sunday in ordinary time

Readings

  • Isaiah 56:1, 6-7
  • Romans 11:13-15, 29-32
  • Matthew 15:21-28

Reflection
How can our encounters with people bring us closer to God?

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Category: Sunday Scriptures