Provoked

It’s been a while now, actually a lot of years.  I have been “casting my eyes” on the daily readings of the Church for about forty years or so.  Because of that I have been encouraged to do things, empowered to say things and moved to change my thinking.  It’s been good and endlessly challenging.  That’s what scripture is supposed to do.  The Gospel writers and wisdom of the Church teach us that.  Veiled in that adventure, though are some clear regrets.  The regrets are not mine but for all of the other Catholics who do not read the Bible or say things like: “The Bible, too hard, too old, too complicated, I don’t have time for that.”

This is classic “spiritual bait”, the enemy convincing us that one of the richest and most amazing sources of growing our faith is not worth the time or effort.  Scripture contains: instruction, witness, miracles, example, life advice and spiritual provocation, right in front of our eyes.  All for free!

You may not realize it but much or scripture presents with a challenge, a provocation to be a better you. Jesus himself does this in several instances.  He carefully choses who to aggravate only because he “knows” the person will be better for the challenge.  So if you have ever been frustrated by Jesus’ instruction/challenge to you, congratulations. For instance, we know that as God of the universe He could make any arrangements, healings, miracles that he wanted, but why did: He allow the disciples to fail at curing the demoniac, or raise Lazarus with his wrappings still intact or leave Zacchaeus up a tree before  addressed him, or gave a sassy answer to the Syrophoenician woman who was literally begging for her daughter’s freedom from a demon.  Like the frustration one can feel at being brushed aside because the person we are with wants to talk to someone more important, this woman was pretty much ignored.  She was a foreigner and I’d bet that she couldn’t have felt more frustrated at finally being near the great and compassionate healer only to be dismissed by his incredibly rude barb:

“It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

Why, now what, how do you recover when God Himself treats you that way?  In the way of today’s world this would have been one of those massively reported incidents that appeared ad nauseum in the tabloids: “Jesus insults follower with cutting remark.” Or something like that. I suppose that the woman would have been justified in leaving and telling all of her friends and neighbors what a “jerk” this Jesus really is.  Today that would be the fodder for hot gossip.  But she was not detoured, she had a greater purpose, the healing of her daughter.  Rather she picked herself up, regrouped and asked again:

“[T]he woman [then] gets off one of the best one-liners in the Scriptures, almost all of which otherwise belong to Jesus himself: ‘Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.’ At which point, Jesus praises her for her faith and cures her daughter.

What’s going on here is really interesting and provocative. The Syro-Phoenician woman is being invited into the life of discipleship, into the following of Jesus. She is resisted, not because Jesus is having a bad day, but because he wants the strength of her faith to show itself.  (From Bishop Robert Barron’s Daily Gospel Reflections – 2/9/17)

How many times have you quit in the pursuit of a blessing because your ego has been         crushed, insulted or disappointed?  How many times have you pouted because the Lord didn’t respond the way you thought He should.  Sometimes the Lord says no, but sometimes the Lord says be braver or think a different way.  What, you expected that this spiritual journey thing would be simple?  Not if you want the most that the Lord has to offer you.  “Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”  St. Catherine of Sienna

Copyright© 2017, Kathryn M. Cunningham

Kathryn M. Cunningham

Kathryn M. Cunningham

Kathryn holds a Master’s in Education from Saint Xavier University. Most recently she completed Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies from The Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. This recent degree was part of a “retirement project” after teaching for 35 years. She has also worked as a spiritual director, music minister,council member and prayer team warrior. Kathryn has a deep interest in catechesis for the people in the pews. As a “sort of” convert she finds the wisdom of the Church a source for encouragement, joy and survival in a world not sure of anything. Her writing has appeared in diocesan publications and on-line sites, most recently for Zenit. To learn more about Kathryn check out her thinking at: www.atravelersview.org”>ATravelersView.org.

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