“Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” (Matthew 15:27)
Consider what God says to us today through Jeremiah: “I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” The meaning of this is that nothing can make God stop loving us. God’s love for us is constant and everlasting and undiminished even when we sin. We serve a God willing to leave the ninety-nine in search of the one. That is the extent of God’s love for us.
One may wonder, if God so loves us, why does He allow suffering in our lives? First, never make the mistake of interpreting suffering as punishment from God. Jesus was sinless, yet He had to suffer the pain and agony of the cross. Suffering, like medicine, may be painful or bitter to swallow but if God allows it, it is because He wants to use it to bring about something good.
Secondly, suffering is a very good teacher. In practical terms, suffering helps us come to terms with the harsh consequences of our sinful choices. Suffering helps us know who our true friends are. When you are down, that is when you realize not everyone smiling at you right now wants your good. Suffering teaches us compassion; when you suffer from something, then you are able to properly sympathize with someone suffering from the same thing.
Again, suffering teaches us humility. If you have never suffered, it is easy to assume you are a god. If you have never had to beg for something from someone, it is easy to feel that you are better than everyone else or that you don’t need others. There is the adage that says: “The hand that begs is always longer than the hand that gives.” Proud people don’t know how to beg, they go about with a sense of entitlement and this is precisely what acts as their downfall in the long run.
Suffering is painful but like a fire, it can burn off impurities from our character, such as laziness, dependency, blaming others, etc. When you suffer ridicule for instance, when people refuse to help you or when they keep telling you “No”, there is a kind of fire that lights up inside you. You become determined to prove them wrong; you start pushing yourself so hard and you go the extra mile just to get what you want.
In today’s Gospel passage, we come across a Canaanite woman who wanted Jesus to heal her daughter. At first, Jesus completely ignored her but in humility, she cried louder until she got His attention. Jesus explained that at that moment, His mission was to the lost sheep of the house of Israel but this did not deter her. She knelt before Jesus saying: “Lord, help me.” This ought to be our attitude when we pray.
Jesus, still unwilling to help her spoke a parable: “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She understood the meaning of this parable but once again, in humility, she responded: “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
Jesus was impressed not just with her faith (her unwillingness to give up), He was impressed by her deep-seated humility. Jesus worked this miracle for her to teach us the need to be persistent with our prayers and to always apply the virtue of humility in our relations with others.
Remember, the hand that begs is longer. Learn to be humble. Don’t interpret everything as an insult; you never can tell if the so-called insult is just a test. No matter how highly placed you think we are, there would always be someone who has something that you lack. Never look down on anyone. If suffering doesn’t teach you humility, nothing else can.
Let us pray: Almighty ever-living God, your love for me is everlasting. Help me to always see the positive side of whatever happens to me. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bible Study: Jer. 31:1-7, Jer. 31:10-12,13, Matthew 15:21-28).
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu