Summary: A sermon using the story of Saint Monica, mother of Saint Augustine as the major illustration to communicate the story of the Syrophonecian-Canaanite woman.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Three-In-One who gives us salvation, despite who we truly are.
Dear Brother and sisters in Christ. When have you been persistent? Have you ever been persistent, with God?
There is a very old old story about a woman, a mother – a wife. She had grown up a very poor, but very religious girl. One day, an older man’s eye fell on her beautiful face and fell into a real powerful infatuation. Months later they were married. Now she had everything she needed, she was taken care of. Still, as often it goes when you have what you need, everyone around her seemed to be more into what they had rather than what they really needed.
Her husband was a louse. He was a drunkard. He found himself spending his money away like it was water. He would spend his money on booze for himself, and for his friends. He would spend his money on booze for his…entertainment…the girls and women that he surrounded himself with so that he wouldn’t have to think about himself, about how awful he really was. His wife knew who he was though. His wife knew, and she prayed for him.
Not too long after they were married, this couple had a child, a beautiful baby boy with his mother’s eyes. This boy grew up; he had his father’s intelligence and his mother’s good looks. This boy was what any mother would want. Sure, this boy made her happy for a while. There were the early years. There were the years when every little action this boy did seemed so innocent, even when he was doing wrong.
But later on this boy, like all young boys do, left the warmth of his mother’s side. He left and decided that he would find out about the world on his own. He could make a killing out in this world. He went off to school and he was a natural. He got great grades, and even on top of that, he was a hit with the ladies. He had the natural ability that made others feel like he could do anything he wanted. But his mother knew better. His mother saw the hurt inside of him. His mother saw the possession in him that he didn’t want to talk about. He didn’t want to talk about the emptiness that plagued him, just as it plagued his father. He didn’t want to talk about trying to fill up that emptiness the same way his father had – by drinking and womanizing. But he didn’t have to talk about it. His mother knew. His mother knew, and she prayed for him.
Years and years went by, and this woman’s face, which used to be so lovely, so young and energetically upward looking had been scarred by hard lines and wrinkles. This woman’s body, which used to be so young and able to do anything, was now old and hunched over from years and years of praying.
It didn’t look good. It seemed as if nothing was changing. Years upon years spent on her knees, only for answer from God that seemed to say, “wait.” Years upon years spent praying for what she knew was His will, only for an answer that sounded like a simple “no.”
This is what the woman in our reading for this morning must have felt like. A Canaanite woman, a mother whose daughter was suffering terribly, standing…no…kneeling before this man who she knew could save her daughter right then and there. You can imagine what this woman must have felt like, how struck to the heart she must have been when she neared this man and he said nothing. You can imagine how she must have felt when the disciples told her to go away.
Have you gotten this response? Have you come to your Lord in prayer and felt like you got no answer at all? Maybe it has been about a sickness in your family like this Canaanite woman was experiencing. Maybe it has been about a friend or a coworker who has turned down every advance you’ve tried to make in Christ’s name. You’ve felt left out and denied.
This woman didn’t quit. She kept going. She kept after the disciples and Jesus, all the while crying out, “Lord! Help me!”
Jesus looks at her square in the eye and tells her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” This could have been enough to make the woman cry. She knew she wasn’t a part of these “lost sheep of Israel.” She was just a poor Canaanite woman, a foreigner, and an intruder.
Shouldn’t we feel the same way? We’re nothing but intruders into God’s grace here. Sure, we pray all the time expecting nothing but good things back from our God – but on what basis. Do we really think about what it is that makes us able to get on our knees and climb up to the throne of God? Do we think about how truly awful our sins make us look to God?