“Remaining ever-faithful to our Blessed Lord – the God of all peoples – with firmness in our faith, perseverance in our piety and courage in our convictions!
(Based on Jer 31:1-7 and Mt 15:21-28 – Wednesday of the 18th Week of Ordinary Time)
Years back, in the late 1900’s, engineers were asked to give their opinions on a possible railroad through the Andes Mountains
(Andes is the longest continental mountain range in the world; it passes through seven South American countries: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina)
They concluded that the job would be an impossible one.
However, as a last resort, an engineer from Poland named Ernest Malinowski was called in.
Malinowski’s reputation as an engineer was famous, but he was in the aging sixtieth year of his life at that time.
The authorities feared to impose such a rigorous task on the old man.
Malinowski, however, assured the representatives that the job could be done.
The railway began to worm its way across the Andes from Peru with sixty-two tunnels and thirty bridges along its way.
One tunnel ran up to 4,000 feet in length, 15,000 feet above the level of the sea.
On two occasions, revolutions in some of the countries through which the railroad passed, held up construction.
Once Malinowski had to even flee to Peru and remain in exile for a time
But nothing could prevent the old man in completing the engineering feat.
By 1880, work was completed on what, till recent times (2006), was the highest railroad in the world.
Malinowski had many barriers towards the achievement of this grand feat…
… The problems arising out of old age
… The challenging mountainous terrains
… The impossibility expressed by many other engineers
However, nothing of it could deter his determination in achieving what he wanted!
Life rewards abundantly, those who are willing to challenge the barriers and be persistent in overcoming them!
The Gospel of the Day presents the beautiful story of a mother who dared to “break through” the mountainous terrains of religious prejudices, social ignominy and personal misery to bridge blessings from God for her precious daughter.
Jesus had withdrawn to the district of Tyre and Sidon (Mt 15:21)
In the Old Testament times, this region was better known as the area of the tribes of the Canaanites.
Over the years, the land had grown in paganism as well as corruption.
Their presence was a strong threat to the purity of Israel’s religion and morality.
Therefore, there was a long history of spiritual and military clashes between the Israelites and Canaanites.
It was in this place that Jesus meets one of them – a woman, whose daughter had been “severely possessed by a demon” (Mt 15:22b)
The presence of “that” woman, however, made the disciples of Jesus, to complain to their Master, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us” (Mt 15: 23b)
At this juncture, we hear two cries…
One – the cry of the woman
The other – the cry of the disciples
The woman cried out of helplessness and out of deep misery – for the “unclean” demon to be cast away from her daughter
The disciples cried out in wretchedness and disgust – for the “unclean” woman to be cast away from their presence
It’s interesting to note the wordplay in Greek, in the words of the disciples and those of the woman…
The disciples uttered, “APOLYSON – send her away”
The woman cried, “KYRIE ELEISON – have mercy, Lord”
These two similar-sounding yet contradicting choruses were ringing in the air – “Apolyson – Kyrie Eleison… Apolyson – Kyrie Eleison”
The Master then stepped in to say, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel… It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs” (Mt 15: 24, 26)
Perhaps the addressing of Jesus as a “dog” would have come as no surprise to the Canaanite woman.
It was a reminder of the sharp distinction that existed, historically, between the Blessed Israelites and the Cursed Canaanites.
The Jews “were” considered as the “children” and the Canaanites (Gentiles) “were” considered as “dogs”
And in every house, the children get fed first… not the dogs!
But the figurative tone set forth by Jesus, found its amazing reply in the words of the Canaanite woman, “Yes, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters” (Mt 15: 27)
Here was a glorious acknowledgement by the woman…
“Yes, I am a Canaanite, and considered to be a dog.
I do acknowledge that Israelites have a special privilege in the order of God’s grace.
But we too, deserve the Grace of God that is due to all people, in general!”
I demand not the privileged bread that is reserved to the mighty….
But, just the crumbs of Your grace will suffice in healing my ailing daughter!”
That was an amazing reply of persistent faith!
The mountainous terrains had been broken!
No religious prejudices, no social ignominy or no personal misery could prevent the bold faith of the woman to bridge the blessings of God’s healing!
Yes, life rewards abundantly, those who are willing to challenge the barriers and be persistent in overcoming them!
With immense pride, the Lord proclaimed, “O Woman, great is your faith” (Mt 15: 28)
Do we also seek to possess such kind of a tremendous faith and unperturbed persistence?
Sometimes we hear – like the cries of the disciples – discouraging voices and refraining chants…
Sometimes we have to encounter the agonizingly painful and silent response of the Lord…
Sometimes we have to bear humiliating challenges to our prayers and even disturbing answers from the Divine..
Yet, like this wonderful mother, who was determined to break down every “mountain” of barrier, for the sake of a miracle for her daughter…
… do we remain courageous, firm and bold in our faith and trust in the Lord?
St Francis de Sales says, “when you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them; try to bend them with gentleness and time.”
Today we also celebrate the Feast of the Dedication of the Mary Major Basilica.
St. Mary Major is one of the four Roman basilicas known as patriarchal cathedrals in memory of the first centers of the Church.
(The other three being St. Peter’s Basilica, St. John Lateran Basilica, and St. Paul’s Basilica, outside the Walls.)
Every Church building is an important symbol of Christianity…
from the grandest of basilicas, to the tiniest of chapels…
… they reflect the “Throne of God”, from which God administers his Love, Mercy, Compassion, Forgiveness, Healing and Blessings upon his Beloved People.
It also signifies the Unity of the People of God, as One Church.
St. Mary Major Basilica is also the First Marian shrine for pilgrims…
… which set a pattern for countless shrines where pilgrims gather to honour our Blessed Mother throughout the world.
Let us today specially seek the intercession of our Blessed Mother…
… to remain ever-faithful to our Blessed Lord – the God of all peoples – with firmness in our faith, perseverance in our piety and courage in our convictions!
God Bless! Live Jesus!
Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “Always have the courage to pick yourself back up and begin again every day…