Welcome to Saint Herman's, Hudson, Ohio

This blog is a partial compilation of the messages, texts, readings, and prayers from our small mission community. We pray that it will be used by our own people, to their edification. And if you happen by and are inclined to read, give the glory to God!

The blog title, "Will He Find Faith on the Earth?" is from Luke 18:8, the "Parable of the Persistent Widow." It overlays the icon of the Last Judgment, an historical event detailed in Matthew Chapter 25, for which we wait as we pray in the Nicean Creed.

We serve the Holy Orthodox cycle of services in contemporary English. Under the omophorion of His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph of the Bulgarian Patriarchal Diocese of the USA, Canada and Australia, we worship at 5107 Darrow Road in Hudson, Ohio (44236). If you are in the area, please join us for worship!

Regular services include:
Sunday Divine Liturgy 10AM (Sept 1 - May 31)
930AM (June 1 - Aug 31)
Vespers each Saturday 6PM

We pray that you might join us for as many of these services as possible! We are open, and we welcome inside the Church all visitors who follow state COVID guidelines. See our most recent COVID statement at our Parish web page:

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Sunday of the Prodigal

1Cor 6:12-20/ Luke 15:11-32

I was reading an essay written by Metropolitan Nektarios titled, “Why Don’t Miracles Happen to Everybody?”  His Eminence’s thesis carries us to places where the saints in faith call on God to heal another, but their prayers for themselves are answered by God saying, “No.”  Witness St. Paul asking for the “thorn in his side” to be taken from him, with God revealing to him, “My grace is sufficient for you.” (2Cor 12:9) And in this analysis, His Eminence carries us to an at least partial conclusion that sometimes troubles are allowed to rest upon us AS His “gift” – to teach us to even greater levels to depend upon Him.  A while back we read a book titled “Everyday Saints” by Archimandrite Tikhon.  It was a compilation of accounts of things he witnessed, just regular people, some monastics, some clergy, some laity, but all with incredible faith who called upon God and had prayers answered.  There are indeed “everyday saints,” but I submit to you that we don’t tend to see “everyday miracles.”  But, are they there?

Why this discussion here on this day, with the Parable of the Prodigal Son before us?  In our Lord’s account of this group of three, Father, elder and younger sons, we find the young one reckless, undisciplined, worldly.  There are more words we could apply to him, but we get the idea from these.  Fundamentally, he should have seen his life as complete and a blessing.  Instead, he viewed himself as oppressed, perhaps living under what he would have couched as an overbearing rule of his Father.  He wanted to be out from under the unperceived blessing.

There’s a warning for US in this analogy.  We, too, have received multiple blessings from God, blessings which we don’t often enough thank Him for, but even more often we don’t recognize as blessings.  And in the choices we make in our lives, we select things that, if only we’d prayed about in advance, if only we’d attempted to look at what God would find pleasing about the choices we need to make, we’d choose differently.  But we choose as “feels right”, don’t we!  And in going for “feeling” instead of “right”, we move further from the blessings the Father is already (and without our need to ask) providing for us.

That pantry full of food off the kitchen?  Do we thank God for letting it be filled to overflowing?  That car in the garage with the squeaky brakes?  Do we thank God for keeping the brakes from failing on us on our way home from work?  That job we complain about having to go to each day?  Do we thank God for providing it so that the roof we’re living under can keep us warm and dry?

You see, there are everyday blessings we don’t even notice.  And in those blessings, is it such a stretch to look at them as everyday miracles?

We think that everything just goes on within every day.  The store shelves are filled with food, and I can go there now, or tomorrow, or later this week and all the things I want or need I’ll be able to toss into a cart and bring home.  And we attribute this blessing all to ourselves.

But we saw when COVID hit how something as simple as toilet paper was taken from us.  Of all things God could use to get our attention – toilet paper!  If toilet paper can go away overnight, what else (that we depend upon) could disappear, totally outside of our personal control?  What if diesel fuel couldn’t be delivered?  What if the electric grid in our country was taken down by a solar flare?  The US power grid has gone down in widespread outages many times in our history, with outages lasting from hours to weeks.  What if whatever took the power out lasted longer still?

Are we seeing the idea that we receive blessings, gifts that God allows, every day without ever attributing to His divine providence their being allowed to continue?

In today’s parable, the prodigal refuses to see these gifts.  His youthful “wisdom” sees life better elsewhere, even though in that mysterious “elsewhere” there is no experience of what’s better or how it’s better. 

It is exactly about this perspective on rejection of God-given gifts that St. John of Kronstadt says, “Brethren! This is how the heavenly Father acts toward us. He does not bind us to Himself by force.  If we, having a depraved and ungrateful heart, do not want to live according to His commandments, He allows us to depart from Him, and to know by experience how dangerous it is to live according to the will of one’s heart, to know what an agonizing lack of peace and tranquility tries the soul, devoted to passions, and by what shameful food it is nourished.”

And so in today’s parable, it’s not until the equivalent diesel disappearance happens that the Prodigal finds, “You know, things weren’t really all that bad with the Father….”

Saint John of Shanghai says, “God saves His fallen creatures by His own love for us, but our love for our Creator is also necessary; without it we cannot be saved.  Striving towards God and cleaving to the Lord by love in humility, the human soul obtains power to cleanse itself from sin and to strengthen itself for the struggle to complete victory over sin.”

The Prodigal came to understand what both St. John’s are teaching.  In his need the Prodigal discovered the humility necessary to repent, to confess to his Father all that he had done, and to further show the extent of that humility, he concludes that he is no longer worthy of being seen as his Father’s son, but only as a “hired servant.” 

This is one lesson in love from today’s parable – the love necessary FROM us TOWARD God.  But the second lesson is even more important, and that is the lesson of love FROM God towards us, even in the depths of our sins.

It is in the context of this second lesson that we come to understand God loving us enough to allow us to choose to reject His love.  The Prodigal did, and by the grace of God he “came to himself” (reacquired his moral sense of direction) and found that all of his thinking had been anti-Father, pro-world, but NOT pro-love.  Love was with the Father.  The world has no love to give.  The world only takes.  And what the Prodigal discovered (and this is a lesson that many of us, myself included, need to still come to learn) is that even in “giving” to us, the world is taking more than it gives.  “Come, watch 4 hours of TV tonight….”  At what expense?  I could have prayed for my neighbor.  I could have read scripture and grown in spirit.  I could have volunteered at the food bank.  “Take the evening and go shopping….”  For what?  What do I truly need that I don’t already have?  What will I do with more?  Who could make better use of the amount I’d spend on something I don’t need?  “Isn’t this supper tasty?  Go and get another helping…..”  Why?  Isn’t what I’ve already eaten enough to sustain me?  Who could be fed by what remains who may not be able to find food?

Can we see that the world “takes” by “giving”???

But let’s get back to the love of the Father.  It took many years for the implications of the words our Lord gifts to us in this parable to reach down into my own soul and grab me.  Jesus says, “When (the Prodigal) was still a great way off, his Father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.”  Within this one sentence is a doctoral thesis on the love of the Father!  The Prodigal is still a great way off, and yet the Father’s eyes are searching, seeking His lost sheep.  The eyes of an old man should be dim.  Not the Father’s!  He sees His son at a great distance.  And Jesus says He had compassion.  The Greek word used is splanch-ni’-zo-mai, and it goes deeper than just compassion to a meaning of “having a yearning from the bowels”, from the depth of His Spirit.  God’s love for us, even in knowing the depth of our sins, is THIS kind of love!  It’s a love so deep and so complete and so full that even as the Prodigal is giving voice to his repentance, the Father is commanding His servants to bring – to put a robe on him, to put a ring on his finger, to give him shoes, and to prepare a feast in celebration.  It’s not that the Father ignores the Prodigal’s repentance.  Rather, He knows it already, and His joy in the return, the repentance of His son, cannot be contained.  Just earlier in this same chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke the Lord says, “I say to you that there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7)  This joy is clearly not limited to the angels – by the parable we come to know that it extends to the Father Himself!

My brothers and sisters in Christ:  All of us are prodigals.  Different in so many ways, we still are wanderers in a land far from the Father.  As the Holy Church gives us these gifts of reminders, let us allow them to soften our hearts to the message of repentance, and offer prayers for ourselves worthy of the fruits of that repentance, worthy of one for whom the Father is waiting – patiently, with the fullness that is the Love of God – with open arms to receive us again as alive!

Glory to Jesus Christ!

To the Doctors

[The following article is taken from the Bulgarian Patriarchal website, https://bg-patriarshia.bg/orthodox-thought/709.  The article is authored by Archimandrite Basil Gondikakis, Abbot of the Iberian Holy Monastery, Mount Athos, dated 26Feb21, and translated by Alexander Smochevsky.  Some of the concepts haven't translated fully or well, but the article is very well founded, such that the reader won't get lost in the words.]

You are doctors. The patient wants his health from you. Ask for life, ask for extension, ask for eternity. He doesn't tell you all this clearly because you can't give it to him. And so that you don't kick him out, so that he doesn't put you in an awkward position - begging you too much - that's why he doesn't tell you out loud. He tells you wordlessly. The greatest things that transcend sensation, expectation, and expression, the greatest things are said silently: at a glance, with the whole being, with silence. The sick come to you to be saved from suffering and death. In the end, he wants one thing: "not to die" (St. Ignatius the Godbearer).

If you, as doctors, know Someone Who can give this antidote against death, the medicine for immortality, you are obliged and must tell him, to direct him to Him, because that is all the patient wants from you. And nothing more.

And if he does not know it, if he thinks that you can only give him "aspirin", this should not hinder you and does not release you from the obligation to give him the Other, the active, the eternal.

The patient does not want you to teach him medicine. He does not want you to tell him how the stomach or the whole body works, or how any medicine works chemically or otherwise. Ask for health, ask for life.

It is handed over to you - physically and mentally. Although he does not understand that he is betrayed and "mentally", although he thinks that he is only a body and only gives it to you, but in a difficult moment he gives himself completely to you. This means that he also gives you his soul. You can tell him, with your silence or through your words in this hour (in which a unique space is revealed from his soul, from his whole being), you can also tell him about another organism, about another body - mental and spiritually, which he feels but does not see, as he has never seen his bodily heart or entrails.

If you are a real doctor, you need to know and be interested in the whole person, not just his body cover and his temporary stay on earth. And your word and silence must speak of the same thing - the victory over death and the proclamation of life.

Temperature brings health to the body, and pain brings health to the soul. Make sure the patient understands it. Discover his being to him. Act like real doctors.  Thus hospitals become (and are!) Temples, just as monasteries - according to St. John Chrysostom - are healers.

If you extend the life of the other not by ten years, but even by ten centuries, it means that you are not a doctor, but a charlatan. Because one does not just want to prolong life. He wants to "not die." And there is a Physician Who gives life that is eternal.

In fact, such health is asked of by all who come to you, although they often expect from you (due to the bad tradition of our fallen nature and history) "aspirin". But you have studied the art of medicine, and you must give them what they cannot find themselves in the secular pharmacy. You have become physicians, and you must give what you have found in the "inn" (Luke 10:34), in the sanatorium of the Church.

The Christian physician is not a healer, but a servant, an ordinary helper of the One, Great, Only Physician - of the God-man Jesus Christ. Although small helpers, weak and inexperienced, but assistants to the Single Doctor. Employees of private offices, who give directions to the sanatorium of the Church, in which once a person enters, enters life, health and eternity - regardless of whether his body will die and his body will be temporarily buried. No, never be healers who struggle to prolong temporary life, who do not defeat death, but only postpone it.

Discover to man that his nature is able to be healthy, to be healed, to become eternal through the celebration of the Resurrection.

Inside the Church we expect and live the resurrection and eternity of the bodies. This is what the Risen Christ taught us. This is what He tells us and this is Himself. This tells us, and this is what our greatest and true brethren live - who have the same nature as us - the saints of the Church.

As long as the sick person gives you his whole being and you can see how he goes to death from your hands, without anyone asking you to do so, you can reveal the Truth to him, give him your whole being as an effective remedy. There is no other connection between healing and salvation than the communion within the Church of the Triune God. And if you are doctors saved and saved, adored and imitating God, giving yourself to him, you will give him the Doctor, Whom you hide in yourself; The Physician, Health, and Immortality that you are, following medicine within the Church and thus becoming members of the "divine nature." In this way you save the sick and save yourself at the same time, because "one body we are all" and one is the common life, which overcomes death from now on, in this and in the other life ... who, resorting to this Wharf, finds no salvation? Who is that cripple who faints in front of this Healer and is not healed? Creator of all things and Healer of the sick, Lord, before I am finally destroyed, save me ”(verse on Sunday evening, ch. 4).

Monday, February 22, 2021

Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

 Our Lord uses words with purpose.  He is “the Word of God,” after all.  No word is out of place.  No word is misused.  No word could be substituted to improve what God the Son says with HIS words.

And so we should pay great attention when the Lord uses a phrase as seemingly incoherent as, “(he) prayed thus with himself.”  What could such an expression mean?

To understand, let’s begin with the dictionary.  What is the definition of “prayer”?

It says this:  A solemn request for help or an expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship.

So, when Jesus says that the Pharisee prayed “with himself,” who (Who?) was the SUBJECT of his prayer?

The simplest answer is that it was not God.  In fact, the Pharisee had placed himself as the one to whom his “prayer” was directed, making himself god.

Now, yes, this is a parable.  And so our Lord’s use of language is intended to teach, not to accuse a specific person.

But having said this, we need to go back before this account in the Gospel of St. Luke and find what caused Jesus to speak the parable.

In the verse immediately preceding the beginning of today’s Gospel reading, we find St. Luke recording this.  “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.”

You see, beyond our Lord using language to perfection, He also knows us fully.  In Matthew 9:4 we find, “And Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?’”

And so the parable is given lovingly to those whose hearts He has seen to be judging others, just as He describes in the parable.  The loving gift is given to convict the spirits, to cause introspection, to bring to repentance, for we know that it is very soon that our Lord must be calling these same people "blind guides", "hypocrites", and a "brood of vipers."  Before going to the indictment, our Lord continues to give His critics room for repentance!

There’s a “legend” (if it’s not true, it’s still a worthy story) of a pastor being hired by a large Christian community who showed up for his first Sunday dressed as a homeless person.  The account indicates that he arrived 30 minutes before the service, mingled with hundreds from the community, with only 3 offering a “Hello” to him.  He asked some for change to buy food, and none was given.  He went into the sanctuary and sat near the front, where ushers arrived to escort him to a more appropriate seat—in the back.  When officers of the church stood to introduce their new pastor, people began to look around, only to find the homeless man stand and walk to the front, where he recited St. Matthew 25:34-40 (“I was hungry and you gave Me food….”)

You see, all of us “judge” others around us.  All of us (at one time or another) put ourselves in the place of God.  Even if we don’t “pray to ourselves,” we (like today’s Pharisee) judge those we find around us.

And for the record, ANY judgment of another by any of us is unjust!

The Stichera sung at Vespers for the day says, “Brothers, let us not pray as the Pharisee, for he who exalts himself shall be humbled.  Let us humble ourselves before God, and with fasting cry aloud as the Publican: ‘God be merciful to us sinners.’”

 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

The New Normal

The title of this piece - it's an expression we've all heard.  We know what is intended by those who use the expression.  They mean to indicate that things as we have known them historically are gone.  We need to "learn to live differently" than we have in the past.  We need to adapt to the changes around us.  We need to embrace how things are today, and leave the past behind.

Those words are all couched in phrases pointing to us as individuals needing to become something we weren't before.  YOU need to change.  YOU need to adapt, or YOU'LL be left behind.  YOU need to stop thinking as you did in the past.  YOU need to stop being an impediment to the wave of change you see around you.

But one must ask the question:  "Or what?"

What if I choose NOT to change.  What if the things that society is attempting to relegate to the past are core values for me?

Take for instance same-sex "unions".  I won't ask forgiveness here.  I refuse to use the word "marriage" in the same phrase with "same-sex", because no matter what society tells me about how antiquated my thinking is, my response is that it's not about "thinking" - it is definitional.  Marriage, by definition - for over 6000 years - is the union of a male and a female.  There's nothing "same-sex" in that expression.  If the government I happen to be living under chooses to recognize civil unions between people of the same sex, they have that civil authority to 'define' such a "union."  But it is NOT a "marriage," nor can it be nor will it ever be.

But this article isn't about same-sex unions.  It's about how our society's rush toward relativism and a general perspective of "there is no 'truth'" is attempting to remove the underpinnings of faith - yes, faith - amongst the people who live under our government's God-blessed auspices.  Why do I say, "God-blessed," and how is that to be interpreted when in the same expression I'm advocating the argument that this same government is attempting to subvert faith in God?  

Saint Paul teaches, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God." (Rom 13:1)

Our Lord Himself, when He stood before Pilate, said, "You would have no authority over Me unless it had been give you from above." (John 19:11)  Jesus was not absolving Pilate from any wrong that was to come from his decisions over Christ's sentencing.  Rather, He makes it clear that as a civil authority, Pilate will be subject to God's review of his stewardship for the position he holds - by the grace of God.  Jesus follows on with these words, "For this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin."

So just as our Lord instructed us to pray for our enemies, He also instructs us to pray for civil authorities, even when we disagree with the directions and decisions being taken by them!

We're going to have more to say over the coming days and weeks about how we, as faithful Orthodox Christians, have been impacted by government restrictions on our gatherings and on our corporate worship.  We'll discuss how our worship has been impacted by our hierarchs, and how we, while being called to be obedient to our hierarchs, are also called to be shepherds to our own flocks, meaning that we (parish clergy) are also responsible to speak openly, boldly, and with all love and respect to our hierarchs in attempting to defend the ability of the faithful to return to active worship IN the Church.

In 1929 the Soviet government introduced "the new uninterrupted work week", which was meant to increase productivity by keeping machines working throughout the year.  The unstated side goal was to wean workers away from Sundays and religious holidays as days of rest.

For us living through the COVID era, our benign government simply said (in various local jurisdictions), "10 people maximum," or "20% of normal attendance," or some other 'formula' to keep people out of the physical church buildings.

And what has been the result?  Today, when restrictions have been diminished (not necessarily removed), and parishes are allowed to have greater numbers of people present for services, PEOPLE AREN'T COMING.  The faithful have been conditioned to either watch streamed services from a distance, OR they have just said Church is just not that important any more.

This Sunday is the LAST Sunday before we encounter the Triodion, the preparatory Sundays before the Great Fast.  We encounter little Zacchaeus this week.  In him we find DESIRE!!  Oh, what a blessed thing DESIRE is, and what a blessed return it would be to have it once again engendered in our own faithful - the desire to be physically present IN the Church, worshipping corporately again!!

We spent last year's Great Fast with less than a handful of people in the building at most weekday services (Presanctified Liturgy, Soul Saturday Liturgy, Canon of St. Andrew, and as we got to Holy Week, Bridegroom Matins, the Passion Gospels, Lamentations, .....), and Sundays were not significantly different.

Will we allow this year to pass in this same way?

Have we lost the DESIRE to be physically in the presence of the Lord?

Can we still find it in our hearts to crave the ability to share in His Body and Blood, to approach the Chalice IN FAITH and love?

The Great Fast has not YET started - but we're at the threshold.  

Would we, like Zacchaeus, make the effort and climb that sycamore tree?  Or would we simply take passing note of the noise of the crowd, move on, and never encounter the Lord - Face to face?

Jesus called Zacchaeus by name.  He calls to us as well.  Are we IN?

Monday, February 8, 2021

I'm Offended!

Mat 15:21-28

Christ, the Lover of mankind and the Great Physician, reveals Himself yet again in today’s Gospel reading.  And as important – no, as essential as that message is to us, we need to find yet another message in His works from this section of the Gospel of Saint Matthew.

And that message relates to the issue of ‘being offended’.  We hear the expression unceasingly in our society.  We as Christians aren’t allowed to call sin sin because it will offend someone.  We aren’t allowed to pray in schools because it will offend someone.  We are no longer allowed to have community sponsored nativity scenes because it will offend someone.  And while it’s not only Christianity that is at play, it does seem as if this faith plays a central role in the issue of people claiming to be offended.

On the flip side, people often say that our beliefs are founded on superstition and antiquated thoughts, that they have no place in an enlightened world.  And we are not permitted to be offended at their opinions.  Our Lord cautioned us against such behavior when He taught us in the Gospel of St. Luke (9:26), “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels.”  If I claim to be offended, am I not indicating my being ashamed of that which I claim to be the offense?

Going back to the beginning of Matthew Chapter 15, we come to an issue that shows our Lord’s perspective on this topic of ‘offending people.’  Here, we find the scribes and Pharisees encountering Jesus.  They have no problem with attempting to anger our Lord with their accusations, and so they come to Him and openly accuse, indeed attempting to provoke the Lord into confrontation: “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?  For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread!”

My goodness.  Such a terrible offense!  It’s a wonder that God didn’t just strike the Apostles dead for such a crime!  Please note that these ‘leaders’ of the Jewish faith do not ask, “Why do Your disciples transgress the law of Moses?”  For there is no such law.  Instead, they focus on a man-made tradition.  Moses is known to have threatened and enjoined his own followers to neither add to nor take away from the Law.  And yet, see what has happened.  Men, in their anxiousness to be seen as having authority, and I dare say to place themselves in the position of God in making rules to set themselves up as judge and jury over others, while at the same time they give to themselves more power, or they abolish rules which convict them of doing wrong.  And it continues to this very day, and it will continue until the Lord’s return.

What is our Lord’s response to them?  He greets the accusers with another accusation.  “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?  For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’  But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother,’ Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God,’ then he need not honor father or mother.  Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.” 

These words need a little explaining.  What Jesus is accusing them of doing is holding onto ‘things’.  Saint John Chrysostom uses the example of a father asking a son to give him a sheep, and the son refuses, telling the father that he has promised the sheep as an offering to God.  The Lord is accusing these men of making up such a tradition.  He is accusing them of hoarding God’s gifts for themselves and breaking the Law in so doing.  Give your father a sheep.  You have others.  Give them, and an extra, to God!

Now comes the offending.  Jesus is not finished with these men.  He says to them, “Hypocrites!  Well did Isaiah prophecy about you, saying, ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.  And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”  Jesus ends by then calling all the surrounding people to Himself, and says, “Hear and understand – not what enters the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”

The twelve Apostles are astounded, and they pull Jesus aside and say, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?”

Again with being offended!  If only, in our time, we had a voice that could speak with such authority and lack of concern about offending others for the sake of speaking the truth!  If only.

Why do we begin with this account?  Because there are many who are coming to Jesus, with many issues, many needs, many righteous and unrighteous desires.  These we’ve just discussed are clearly unrighteous, and those who come with them leave empty – perhaps even more empty than when they came, for their hearts are not filled with love, but are filled with hatred and envy.

On the other side, we find today’s Canaanite woman.  Jesus is traveling in a land away from His home.  Saint Matthew relates in the beginning of today’s Gospel that this woman of Canaan “came from that region” – she had left her home.  Why?  To seek the Master.  She shows none of the quarrelsomeness or arrogance of the Pharisees.  She shows only faith, patience, and a great humility.  Her faith is such that she knows that our Lord can heal her daughter.  She shows no doubt in this belief.  Her patience is such that even after being soundly rebuked by the Lord, multiple times, she persists, knowing that God loves all, and the words He is using are those which would be hurled by the ungodly to offend her and break her faith.  She shows by this great patience that her faith cannot, her faith will not be broken.  And by this, she shows a level of repentance that we should try to emulate.  How is repentance shown?  By virtue of the fact that the woman comes before Christ, recognizing His divine authority and power.  One cannot reach this state, one of seeking to reach out and touch God, without encountering first a truly repentant heart.

Her persistence, her unwavering faith and patience can be noted in the reaction of the Apostles, who at one point ask Jesus to “send her away, for she cries out after us.”  They are taken in at first by His ignoring the woman.  They allow this feigned posture of ignoring a nuisance on the part of our Lord to cause them to also take the posture of openly offending her.

The Lord’s rebuke of the woman is not an act intended to drive her away, for our Lord knows our hearts.  He knows that her faith is great enough to overcome this small offense, though to many it would seem great.  How many would be offended enough to leave in anger at being called ‘a dog’?  When is “being offended” appropriate?  Our Lord is teaching us here that it is not appropriate even at this level!!

But the woman turns the offending term into one of indicating the depth of her faith.  “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”  In short, I don’t care what words are throwing at me.  I know that there is power and authority to spare in Your being.  I know that You have the ability to heal my beloved child, and to heal me as well.  I will endure anything to receive the answer to my plea that I came before You to receive!  I see the children of Israel offending and rebuking You!  This means that some of which You would give to them, You can and will make available to me.  They have case aside more than enough crumbs to meet my needs, if only You will bless me to take them.  You can see, Lord, I believe!  I trust!  I repent!  I have faith!

These words did not come from her lips.  But again, the Lord knows our hearts.  These words were evident in her heart – just as much, and perhaps even more so than the words of hatred and envy in the hearts of the Pharisees who came to the Lord just before her, scattering their crumbs so that she might benefit from her faith to receive her own need

The Canaanite woman comes to Jesus and says what?  “Have mercy on my daughter?”  No!  While her prayer to Jesus is for her daughter to be released from demonic possession, she comes and prays to God the Son, “Have mercy on me!”  I need healing from my sins!  Heal me, and heal also my beloved child.

Jesus grants the prayer of the woman.  He does not ask for faith from the daughter!  Take careful note of this!!!  When the centurion came to seek healing for his servant, Jesus did not ask, “Does your servant believe?”  God answers prayer based on the faith of those who come to Him in faith, regardless of the level of the faith of the one for whom they are interceding.  Immediately after this passage in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, crowds bring to Jesus multitudes of lame, blind, mute and maimed people.  And He heals them all, because of the faith of those who brought them.

We need to find within ourselves the ability to ignore the world’s attempts to dishearten us with offending and discouraging words and practices.  All that matters is our faith, our patience, and our humility, all of these coming from a repentant heart.  Then, the source of all strength, Jesus our Lord, will hear our prayer offered in purity, and will grant to us that which is beneficial for our salvation, and for the salvation of those for whom we are lead to pray.

It’s a simple plan.  It requires simplicity in heart, being “like a child” as we approach our God.  If we start with this foundation, our faith, like that of the Apostles, can still change the world.

Glory to Jesus Christ!