[20 August 2017] Is 56:1, 6-7 • Ps 67 • Rom 11:13-15, 29-32 • Mt 15:21-28
A mother's supplication
In the early days of my confinement in a Davao City hospital after my 1974 vehicular accident which rendered me paralyzed from the waist down, my mother was care and love personified. She attended to my every need as only a mother could. When I had no appetite to eat, she had the tastiest food bought. And when friends visited me, she was happy for she knew that their visit would somehow make me forget my pains, even just for some moments.
Later, when I was transferred to a Manila hospital where I developed Hepatitis A more than two months after the accident, and seeing that I was becoming just skin and bones (I was vomiting everything I ate plus the past weeks of hardly eating anything at all), she would go to the chapel and cry her heart out to Jesus before the Blessed Sacrament and to his Blessed Mother. She prayed that even if I would not be able to walk again that would be fine as long as I would live. I would not even be surprised if she even prayed that she be allowed to take my place instead. Or when a friend visited her, she would invite her to go out of the room and open her heart out to her and raise the inevitable “why question” for which there was no answer.
I personally believe that my mother suffered more than I did. Mine was mere physical pain—even if extreme. But hers was the pain of a loving heart which only a mother, whose nature is to give life, nurture and love, can feel.
In the gospel reading, we are confronted with a very similar situation (Mt 15:21-28). A Canaanite woman approached Jesus crying out, Have pity on me Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon. Matthew captured the depth of her anguish when he described her as “crying out” to Jesus whom she knew had the power to cure her daughter.
But her cry was met with silence. Interpreting Jesus’ silence as a no, the disciples advised him to send her away for she keeps calling out after us. Jesus then told her that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Understanding fully that her being a non-Jew excluded her from his ministration, she nonetheless persisted in her supplication: Lord, help me! Then Jesus said of her what Jews said of pagans: It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs. But she would not be intimidated. Her response, Lord, even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters. Outwitted, no one ever had ever done that to Jesus, he finally gave in saying, O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.Her daughter was healed from that hour.
Knowing what my mother went through because of what happened to me, I can easily empathize with the Canaanite woman: a mother would do anything for her child’s welfare.
Many parents today are obsessed with their careers and leave no stone unturned to go up the career ladder. No, they do not neglect their children in doing so—so they claim. In fact, they pamper them with anything money can buy. However, they do not spend much time with them. When they arrive from work at night, their children are already asleep. When they wake up in the morning, their children have already left for school. Before long, the children begin to feel unaccepted, insecure, unloved and worst, bitter. Why? Because they have been deprived of the kind of care and love that only parents can give.
Later, they express their “no” to their parents’ values by looking for understanding and belonging elsewhere—among their peers. Before long, some begin to indulge in drugs and eventually become addicts. To maintain their “habit,” they steal and do other petty crimes. Here we see the beginnings of a life of crime for them.
Or others may find someone from the opposite sex who are in the same fix. Discovering for the first time what it means to be understood and cared for, they begin to feel that at last they have found “true love.” Soon they begin to be intimate with each other. Before long, the girl gets pregnant. Unable to handle the situation and unwilling to confide in her parents—they do not care anyway, she reasons—she resorts to abortion. But instead of solving her problem, it brings her emotional and moral anguish. Meanwhile, the boy disappears from her life, along with his earlier protestation of “I will love you forever.”
When this happens, parents ask themselves, “Where have we gone wrong?” If only they realize that there are no delinquent children unless there are delinquent parents! Then they may really begin to look deep into themselves and discover why and how they have failed their children, and do something about it!
The Canaanite woman knew how to be a parent and a person of faith. Parents can certainly learn a lot from her on how to be good parents and persons of faith.
VERDANT PASTURES: Reflections on the Sunday Readings
Fr. Alfonso E. Carino, OMI
St. Pauls, 7708 St. Paul Road, San Antonio Villlage, 1203 Makati City, Philippines