After the celebration of Pentecost which, this year, happened in early June, we go back to the Ordinary Time in the Church that also sneaks in between the Christmas Season and Lent. But we remain in Ordinary Time now until Advent. That can seem like a really long stretch. It is the time now to prepare for that long stretch.
However, I really enjoy this end of the summer in Ordinary Time. There are lots of favorite saints' feasts (Sts. Clare, Dominic, Lawrence, Maximilian Kolbe, just to name a few) and the readings right now with Moses in the Old Testament leading the Israelites to the Promised Land match up pretty perfectly with Christ trying to educate and lead his disciples.
Since things are starting to slow down for me, I have gotten to spend much of this week in prayer. It's a great way to truly rejuvenate before I go back into ministry. Each year, I try to renew that enthusiasm and look at my job as a teacher really as a ministry. It's easy to get caught up in the day to day and forget that my job is to hand on the faith to young people. I can get caught up in the rules and the policies and the assessments, when that is the opposite of what Christ focused on. It is the message. Everything I teach and do is about a message. I need to make sure that I am sending the right one.
The Old Testament readings, as I mentioned, have been about Moses struggling to lead the Israelites peacefully to the Promised Land. One minute they are complaining about having only manna to eat, forgetting the facts that God has performed many miracles for them, one of them being that manna itself. Then, they are taken to the "land of milk and honey", but they are afraid of the Canaanites who are already there. Moses is constantly battling with them and with God about how to lead. He complains and is flawed, but he ultimately still communicates with God and tries his best to follow God's instructions. I think many of us in leadership positions can relate to Moses and his struggles.
Christ, similarly, is trying to instruct his apostles who never seem to quite trust or get it either. This week Peter has been a major character- witnessing the Transfiguration (one of the many feasts during this Ordinary Time) and wanting to build altars which isn't what Christ wanted him to get from the experience, trying to walk on water, and also being given the title of 'the rock' on which Christ's Church will be built. Peter never seems to quite get it, but he keeps trying. He doesn't give up, similar to Moses.
The Canaanite Woman approaches Jesus in the Gospel because she wants Him to heal her daughter. Jesus says something very unusual to her about only being sent to "the lost sheep of Israel" and it not being "fit to take the food of children and throw it to the dogs." This doesn't sound like Jesus- being somewhat withholding and even discriminatory. She responds in a perfect and sassy way, though, saying that even "the dogs eat the scraps from their Master's table." It is a strange exchange, but somehow perfect. Here are some of my reasons why I like it:
1.) Jesus must've known that this woman would respond to such banter this way. I like to think that Christ meets us where each of us are at spiritually and emotionally. It reminds me of my friend Dan who would be so sweet and kind to all, but then knew that I appreciated sassy banter so he would do so with me. Perhaps this woman also needed such an encounter.
2.) Jesus is teaching the disciples around him a lesson. It is clear from the times of Abraham and Moses and everything in between that the Israelites are known as God's "chosen people" yet here Christ is saying that He has been sent for everyone. Not just the Jews.
3.) The reading of the Israelites being afraid to enter the Promised Land because of the Canaanites is kind of the opposite of what happens here in the New Testament with the Canaanite Woman. She is not afraid to approach Jesus and ask Him for what she wants. She has faith and believes and for that, she is rewarded. He says that her faith saves her.
Besides Moses and Peter's examples of perseverance in the readings this week, I am also reminded of a chant that we used to use in college at Adoration and times of prayer: "Trust. Surrender. Believe. Receive." The Canaanite Woman is able to do all of these things. I feel like at certain times in my life, I struggle with any one of these. Sometimes I am not trusting God, sometimes I am not surrendering or believing. The one that really gets me, though, is "receive." How is it that sometimes we won't even receive the free gifts that we are given? Perhaps we think we are unworthy. Perhaps we are afraid like the Israelites to enter the Promised Land. It may not be clear how or why were struggle with these things- trust, surrender, belief, and receiving- but it *is* clear to me that they are the path to our rewards with God and the answers to our prayers.
I am ending this summer grateful for the equal parts of being busy and relaxation. And I am certainly grateful for the time in prayer this week to rejuvenate me for the job ahead. I will be starting my 10th year of teaching! God has called me in many ways throughout my life, but this call to teach has certainly lasted the longest. I am grateful for the call. I just need to continue to: "trust, surrender, believe, and receive" in all that I do.
Happy end of Summer!