The Woman Who Jesus Called a Dog

Remember when Jesus called that woman a dog? When I heard it, I was horrified!

Here’s the passage from Matthew 15:21-28:

Then Jesus went from that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.

I always felt bad for this woman. Jesus called her a dog, and yet she continued to beg him for help. Shouldn’t she have told him where to go and then huffed off? Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? I mean, he blew her off three times! I think I would have left after saying a few choice words. My pride would have been too great and too injured. I would have wanted to leave with at least a shred of dignity, especially since it seemed he wasn’t going to help me anyway.

But not this woman. She cared more for her daughter than for her own pride, her own “dignity.” That is just not how we do things here in the world. We are supposed to rant, get righteous, demand to speak to Jesus’ manager. We don’t want to look like fools when we tell this story to our family and friends, do we? “So then after this man and his friends had ignored me and told me to go away and called me a dog, I begged him some more.” That just doesn’t sound good in the retelling. Makes me look bad.

The Canaanite woman didn’t care about all that. She didn’t care how it looked. She continued to subject herself to Jesus, even after apparent rejection – three times over.

Do you ever feel rejected by God? I do. I remember after my father died. I was so miserable. The misery went on and on and on. For months, then years. I felt rejected and like I was being punished. God must not like me, I thought. Or else he is just too mad to deal with me. I mean, I haven’t led a spotless life. I’ve done things that were so wrong that I’m too ashamed to even mention them here. This crushing pain must be my punishment, I reasoned.

I’m reading the Diary of St. Faustina. She went through crushing mental and spiritual pain – nothing eased it. You know what she said? She said to Jesus, “Even if you kill me, still I will trust in You!” (See Job 13:15.) She continued to be faithful to her vows and the Sacraments. She writes, “…this blind obedience was for me the only path I could follow and my very last hope of survival.”

That’s what the Canaanite woman was like! She continued to be blindly obedient even when ignored, even when she felt rejected. She persisted in her pleas. And she was rewarded for her faithfulness. “O woman great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed that very hour.

God, please help me to be patient, persistent, and obedient. Help me even when I feel rejected to do you homage and say, “Lord, help me.” I want you to be able to say to me, “O woman, great is your faith!”

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Doors, the Enemy, and Strongholds

“Any time a door is opened, it allows the enemy to set  up a stronghold in our lives.”

I had heard these words, read them, in many places, but I never understood them.  I mean, what is a “door,” and what is a “stronghold?”  And who, exactly, is the “enemy?”

When I was in middle school, my friend and I pulled out the ol’ Ouija Board for the first time.  We didn’t see any harm in it.  Nobody had ever told us not to do it.  And it was made by Parker Brothers I believe, the company who had made lots of our other games.  It took a long time to work, but finally we were able to talk to a “spirit” who told us to do things, like go down to the crawlspace under the house.  We did, and nothing seemed to come of it at the time.  But it opened a door.

Later, we tried automatic writing, and, again, got to talk to spirits.  Nothing much seemed to happen immediately, but it also apparently opened a door.

Then the nightmares started.  I woke up drenched in sweat at 3 am every night.  I felt like something was in my room, something that I couldn’t see.  It’s difficult to convey in mere words the terror that haunted me nightly.

That, it turns out, is what happens when you open a door into your soul.  Things walk in.  The enemy.

So, a door is just anything that invites the enemy in.  The enemy is Satan and his demons.  And a stronghold is the snuggly little camp they set up inside your soul from which they make their nightly and/or daily forays into your mind and life.

I will try to post more on what doors are out there, how to avoid them, and what the end game is.  In the meantime, let’s all put on the armor of God as found in Ephesians chapter six:  “So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

What about you?  Have you ever opened what may have turned out to be a door?  What happened?

A Voice of One Calling in the Wilderness

As I was doing morning prayer today, a thought occurred to me.  I was saying the Canticle of Zechariah, which can be found in Luke 1:68-79.

Zechariah is the father of John the Baptist.  He was struck mute (made speechless) by an angel of the Lord (Gabriel) for doubting and basically asking for a sign or confirmation that what the angel told him was true.  The angel had told Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth would bear a child in her old age and the child would be special and be named John.  Since he and Elizabeth had not had any children thus far, Zechariah was doubtful.

He remained mute throughout Elizabeth’s pregnancy, and was only allowed to speak after he wrote, in obedience to the angel’s words, “His name is John.”  After that, he began to speak, and filled with the holy spirit, to prophesy.  The words that he spoke are known as the Canticle of Zechariah, and are recited every morning by those who say the Liturgy of the Hours.

One of the sentences that he said goes like this:  “You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.”  The child spoken to in this passage is his newborn son John, later to be known as John the Baptist.

But as I was reading this today I thought, I wonder if this passage doesn’t just apply to John the Baptist.  Maybe it applies to me, too.

Now, don’t think I’m some megalomaniac that sees herself as “the prophet of the Most High.”  No, I’m thinking mostly of the part that talks about giving people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.  I think we are all called to do that.  I mean, isn’t that the Good News itself?

I don’t know if we are in the end times or not.  But sooner or later Jesus will be coming again, and it is probably our job to make sure that people are ready.  Jesus will be the one to save everyone, but we can make His path easy and straight by preparing people, by telling them that Jesus is the one that can and will forgive their sins.

I find this message very comforting.  My sins will be forgiven, and thereby my soul will be saved.  We can argue, if we want, about whether we all need to go to Confession in order for our sins to be forgiven.  But I think we can all agree that our sins can and will be forgiven by Jesus.  That he is our Savior.

Personally, I like being reminded of this, so I go to Confession.  It is so wonderful to have someone remind me that my sins are forgiven and Jesus is saving me.  I wish I didn’t make so many mistakes and commit so many sins.  I wish I was perfect and didn’t need any more saving.  But there in the confessional, Father blesses me and reminds me that I am a precious child of God.  It makes me feel so good.  Why don’t I go to Confession every week?  I guess I just get too caught up in the world.

Hey, it is 3:30 pm on a Saturday right now!  I think I know where I’m heading…

Hey Jori, it’s Me, God

I always worry that I have an addictive personality.  Alcoholism runs in my biological and adoptive families, so I have a legit reason to worry.  Not to mention, I went through a serious drinking streak in college.

Anyway, the other day I was doing Evening Prayer, which is said around the time of sunset (getting earlier and earlier!), and I started craving brandy.  I mean, really craving it.  I have a big bottle of brandy with plenty left in it, and I suddenly stopped saying my prayers and was mentally going through my refrigerator and cabinets looking for something to which to add the brandy.  (Man, just talking about it now is making my mouth water.)

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(This is not a picture of MY brandy bottle, needless to say.  My brandy is cheap and run of the mill.  This picture is merely to make you wish you had some brandy right now, so you can understand where I’m coming from.)

I said to myself:  “Maybe I could add it to some tea and lemon, make a hot toddy.”  “Do we have any eggnog left?”  “What other holiday drinks are made with brandy?  Time to pull out the Bittman!”  (“The Bittman” is how my friends reference the cookbook “How To Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman.  They are academicians and complete nerds.)

But then I kind of backtracked and began to wonder if my whole quest for brandy drinks was good and proper.  I mean, it was only 4:30 pm. after all.  Plus, what if I do have an addictive personality and this leads me down a path to a binge?  Moreover, here I am doing Evening Prayer, and I’m thinking about brandy instead of thinking about God??

You see, I was raised Protestant, but converted to Catholicism in 2008.  And growing up in the South, I was surrounded by Baptists, even though I happened to be Methodist.  The Baptist prohibition against drinking sunk in kind of deep.  So even though I do drink alcohol, I feel guilty and conflicted when I do.

Not knowing what to do, I turned to God for an answer.  I sent out a silent plea for a response and waited.

Silence in my soul.  No response.

I sighed and decided that I should just finish Evening Prayer and decide later about the whole brandy thing.  So I found the last sentence I had read, and moved on.  The very next sentence said this:

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The Very. Next. Sentence.

It is from I Peter 5:8, and the whole thing goes like this: “Stay sober and alert.  Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

It was so striking that it put a bit of fear in me.  So I’ve purposed to stay sober and keep alert.  Not that I was a really big drinker before.  Sure I had that little incident when the Royals were winning, but now I’m on the straight and narrow!

I probably won’t be a teetotaler in the future; I don’t think that alcohol is evil.  But I do think my days of drinking to excess are officially over.

Deathbed Litmus Test

I am most interested in the Really Big Questions.  Aren’t you?  I mean, do you ever wonder what you will think about on your deathbed?  That is, if you are lucky enough to have one and don’t just get hit by an out-of-control metro bus?  I think about this often.  The deathbed, not the bus.  Hopefully I’ve got my priorities straight on that one.

*pauses to think about her priorities*

Anyway, I often ask myself when confronted with an issue, “Will this be something I care about when I’m on my deathbed?”  You know what?  The answer is always “No.”  I was wondering why that was, and I think it is because in the course of everyday life, things come up that are often trivial.  They seem important.  But as my husband’s shrink asks, “Are they really important?  Or are they just urgent?”

Almost always the thing that is staring me in the face is screaming, “I’m important, damn it!”  But upon reflection, I realize that it is simply “pressing.”  That is a good word.  Everyday life presses in on me.  It wants me to scramble to accommodate it.

On the other hand, the Really Important Things, the things that I will indeed care about on my deathbed, rarely rear their heads in such an showy fashion.  They like to hide.   And then one day, when giving something the Deathbed Litmus Test, I start to wonder “Well then, what WILL I care about?”

I’m only 43 years old, and yet I can’t sift through everything that has happened to me.  It’s too much.   However, I think I can start to understand the important things when I think back to other people that I know that have passed away.  What did they talk about on their deathbeds?  What did the people around them talk about at that time?  See, this parting of the veil allows all the trivialities to slip away.  The eyes of the dying open onto a different place.   Everyone involved seems to understand at that point what is important.

Unless you can get stuck with a smartass like my husband in the room.   He (and his brothers, too – y’all admit it, now ) asked his dad what the winning lottery numbers were.

I guess they figured that since he was in between the worlds, he would have some kind of supernatural knowledge, and hey, why not use that?

You know what dad said?  This was the day before he died, and he was in and out of consciousness, but he clearly said, “6,2,6,2…”  He kind of trailed off and was smiling  broadly to himself.  We were all kind of surprised.  What in the world just happened?  Were these really the lottery numbers?

It turns out that indeed they were.  For him at least.  They  were the month, day, and year of his wedding.