Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Saints Xystus II and Companions); White (St. Cajetan)
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, the case of the Canaanite widow and her daughter, and how the daughter was healed by Christ our Lord because of her mother’s faith, should stir all of us, all of our hearts. That the woman had shown her great faith and trust in God, placing all of her heart and faith in the power and ability of our Lord, recognising Him as the heir of David, the awaited Messiah of Israel, the Saviour of the world.
Yes, brothers and sisters, the woman, the Canaanite woman, not of the chosen race and the chosen people of Israel, had recognised the Lord and put her entire heart and full faith in Him when so many other people of Israel had failed to do so. Not only that many of these people had failed to put their full attention and faith in the Lord, but they even complained against Him and grumbled against Him, when He had shown them so much love, compassion, care, and kindness.
So great is His love that He listened to their complaints, giving them food, the bread of heaven in the form of manna for them to eat in the morning, and quails for them to eat in the evening, as well as crystal-clear and sweet spring water from rocks for them to drink and satisfy themselves when they complained that they have not enough to eat or drink.
Yes, the Lord even promised them, as He had promised Abraham their forefather, the Promised Land of milk and honey, where the land is so rich that it will yield fruits manyfold and bring with them great riches for God’s people, that is Israel to enjoy for eternity. He fulfilled that promise and brought His people to the land that He had given to them and their descendants.
And yet, they still complained, and they did not truly love the Lord their God, nor did they give Him their full dedication and faith. When the explorers sent by Moses reached the Promised Land and saw the warlike peoples of Canaan living in the land, with giant men and powerful warlords, the people chose to follow their own human instincts and immersed themselves in their own human fear, that they again complained against the Lord for having brought them to that ‘dreaded’ Promised Land filled with enemies and prospects of death.
Despite all the good things that the Lord had given them and would have given them in perpetuity, for eternity, they rejected the kindness of the Lord, because they trusted themselves more, in human power and fear, and not in divine power of our God. And therefore, because of their rebelliousness, they deserved death. The Lord rejected them from His presence and denied them from entering the Land He promised them.
Then we can contrast this, to the widow, the widow who does not belong to the people of Israel, the Canaanite woman dismissed by many in Israel in Jesus’ time as pagans and people doomed to hell. Yet, she proclaimed the Lord and recognised in Him the salvation that is to come for her and the whole world. She asked humbly for His mercy and showed her faith to Him, even when Christ seemingly rebuked her and mentioned that He was only sent to the people of Israel. She answered well and proved her faith to God, and as a result, she received her due reward, the same reward promised to the people of Israel of old, but which they rejected because they trusted more in the power of man rather than in the power of the One and almighty God.
It does not mean that the people of Israel are bad or that they are rejected by God. Remember that Jesus Himself is a Jew, and He belongs to the House of David, because He is His heir, and the widow rightly proclaimed that He is the Son of David, the One to whom God will give eternal kingship, glory, and power over not just Israel, but over all mankind, over all the world. Instead, the readings today highlight that, first, we must be always faithful and trusting in the Lord our God, and we should be fast to praise and slow to complain.
It is our nature to feel that we do not have enough when we actually already have more than enough. It is part of our natural greed and desire for things and material goods. And it is also our nature to first think about ourselves and our needs before that of others, and we are quick to praise ourselves in general, whenever we achieve something, but it is generally considerably more difficult for us to give due thanks and praise to others, when they have done something that had benefited us in one way or another.
This happened to the people of Israel in the desert, that despite the freedom God had given them from the backbreaking and hard labour under slavery in Egypt, despite that He had showed them His might and power in opening the sea, giving them His own Laws and commandments, making sweet and crystal-clear water to gush out from rocks and even giving them food from His own table in heaven in the manna, they did not feel that they have enough, and indeed, complained that their previous life in Egypt had been much better, and even brought the Lord to the test, in doubting whether God could provide for them in their journey in the desert.
Yes, brethren, the path of the Lord is not an easy one, and there will certainly be numerous obstacles lying in our path if we choose to follow the Lord. The evil one certainly does not stay idle and let us, the followers of God, His disciples to just go free without any difficulties. This is why, it is often much easier and much more pleasurable for us, to settle on things that seem to be easier and more relaxed, even though to do that means that we sin against the Lord our God.
We cannot have this mentality, brothers and sisters in Christ, because to settle for such a thing would mean that we prefer the slavery under sin and Satan, instead of the freedom God had offered all of us through His suffering and death on the cross. Do not follow the path of the Israelites who chose to rebel against God and complained against His love and kindness. Our Lord knows what we truly need, brethren, and He will not leave us without love or care, because He always watches over us, at all times.
Today, brothers and sisters in Christ, we celebrate the feasts of Pope St. Xystus II or Sixtus II, as well as St. Cajetan. Both of them are holy and pious men dedicated to God in their own ways. Pope St. Xystus II lived in the middle era of the Roman Empire, and reigned as the leader of the Universal Church during the height of the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire in the middle of the third century. He reunited the divided factions of the people of God after healing the rifts that existed after heresies wrecked the faithful, and brought them back to God, once again as one people. He was martyred along with several of his companions following a brutal repression and persecution of the faithful by the Emperor Valerian.
St. Cajetan on the other hand was a priest who lived in the middle of the Renaissance Italy, during the sixteenth century. He helped much in the Church’s attempts to combat heresy of the Reformation which spread like wildfire during his lifetime. He dedicated much of his efforts and works to love and serve the poor, the lonely, and those without love, committing himself towards caring for all of them. He founded a religious order, the Theatines, which has a similar vision to him, that especially focus on the virtue of service and committing acts of love to others, as part of the faith.
Therefore brothers and sisters, today, let us be resolved to have the faith of the widow, to seek the Lord with great humility and persistence, and ask Him to show mercy and love upon us sinners. Let us not harden our hearts the way the people of Israel had done when they journeyed through the desert. Let us reflect on ourselves and our own weaknesses, and seek the Lord to enlist His aid, in helping us to overcome these weaknesses.
Let us also follow the example of Pope St. Xystus II in his commitment to the cause of the Lord, and the faith and love, as well as the dedication he had shown him, just as the widow had shown her faith to God, by her recognition of the good that the Lord had done for us. Let us also follow the example of St. Cajetan, in his own devotion to the Lord, which he showed through his love and service, and all the care he had given to all the children of God in need, in need for love, care, and compassion. In doing those things, St. Cajetan showed his love and faith in God. We too can do the same, brothers and sisters in Christ. Show Christ our love, just as He had shown us His love from the cross.
May the Lord bless us all with strength, faith, and perseverance to go on in our lives, no longer complaining but from now on putting our whole and complete trust in the Lord our God who loves us. May Pope St. Sixtus II and St. Cajetan, and all the company of saints and angels in heaven intercede on our behalf before the Lord who is loving and merciful, that He will forgive us our trespasses and deem us worthy of His presence and His kingdom once again. Amen.