Friday, August 19, 2011

Let's Talk Scripture

*I quote Judy and Victor in this post, You can visit their individual blogs by clicking their names under Blog Authors on this blog's sidebar.

One of the things I love about the Catholic blogging community is the good spiritual dialogue that often goes on in the comments. I experienced a bit of this during this past week on my own blog and I thought I would share it with all of you here.
The first dialogue began with a post I wrote titled, The Way To Approach Jesus in Prayer, on last week's Gospel about the Canaanite Woman. Judy, who keeps several blogs of her own and is also a contributor here, commented on my post and said she was a little conflicted about Jesus' response to this woman. Judy asked if she could "tap my brain" on this one. Here is Judy's comment and my response:

JudyYour post is very interesting.

This story has always intrigued me, also...but in a rather different way and I would LOVE to know your thoughts about it. When I read this (and also the story of the woman who was pestering ("persisting") the judge) I am always a bit taken aback.
It seems that the "persistence" is rewarded and I "get that" part. What throws me is this: If I were up close and in person to Jesus Christ and believed that He was the God...and I asked Him for something...and He replied in the "negative" as it seems, at first that He does in this story...I would bow low and say "I'm so sorry to have troubled you my Lord" and then run off and hid somewhere to cry. So too, if the judge would have told me "no"...I would have gone away and not come back. In this regard, we teach our children to accept the answer as "no" when we give it...and you know all the cliches that go with that "Because I said so" or "I do not owe you an explanation", etc.
How is it then, that these women "persisted" and did not feel as though they were being disrespectful, whining, or pestering in their pleas? Sorry to take up so much room here in the comments...but this has perplexed me for some time and I thought that your post provided a good opportunity for me to "tap your brain" about it. In other words, how do we know when God's answer is "no" as opposed to when we are supposed to "persist" and ask again...and again...and again? To me, that seems as though His first answer "wasn't good enough". 

My response:
You raise some very good questions/points in your comments. Now of course I have no definitive answers for you, but my feelings and thoughts are these: First, I probably would have done as you would and thanked Our Lord for His time and walked away, but I think this is exactly what Jesus wants to see if we will do at times. Not to be mean, but to test how badly we think we need something and to test our persistence in prayer. I guess you could liken it (in an oversimplistic way) to one of your children asking you for something, you tell them no and they leave it alone, or they keep asking, your older children may even have some good arguements as to why you should grant their wish- just as this woman did for Jesus.
Now this woman had the advantage of having Jesus right in front of her; she could see His expression, hear the tone of His voice. There must have been something that made her believe she should keep begging for the Master's help. She knew that He could heal her daughter. Back to your kids- would you stop at one doctor who said "Sorry can't help you." if one of you precious children were sick? I know you wouldn't. (Sorry to make it personal) We do not have Jesus in His earthly human form in front of us, so it's back to the silence and listening to Him there. Praise Him that He has given us Himself in the Eucharist; we can sit before Him and plead our case and beg for His help, and like the Canaanite Woman, if we truly listen for Him, we will know whether we should persist in our prayer, or go away in humble acceptance of God's silence or His "No". I still feel it is better to err on the side of persistence if we are not sure. I hope my speculation helped. This side of heaven we can't really know Jesus' reasons for why He did what He did or why He does what He does (or doesn't do.
This post seems to have given you some food for meditation; perhaps you should stay with it for awhile and pray with it, maybe journal with it as well.(My spiritual journal entries are always in the form of letters to Jesus-it makes it more conversational to me.)
Thanks for your thoughts on this, Judy and for starting some good dialogue on it.

Judy raised some very good points and questions. This Gospel passage often has many of us scratching our heads wondering about why Jesus remained silent and then rebuked her. This side of heaven we may never know the answer for sure, but what we are to take from it is the example of this woman's persistence in faith and prayer.

The second bit of dialogue went on between Victor of Time for Reflections, and another contributor to this blog. Victor commented on my post in honor of the feast of the Assumption, The Assumption and the Promise of Things to Come. Victor wanted to know if I could shed any light on whether or not Mary actually died. Now despite Victor's compliment to my knowledge, I really am not (I just read a lot :). I told Victor about how the Orthodox and other Catholic rites (Byzantine for one) refer to this feast as the Dormition of Mary, the term dormition meaning to fall asleep. My dialogue with Victor went on beyond one comment so you can read our entire conversation by clicking the above link for my post and then go to the comments.

I wanted to share the thoughts of these two fellow blogging friends for several reasons: 1) both Judy and Victor raised some wonderful questions and expressed some valid points. 2) I wanted to open this dialogue to others who may be able to share their insights on one or both of these topics, and 3) I think this spiritual dialogue is what the comboxes are all about. Having traveled around the Catholic blogospere over the last two plus years, I have seen some nasty goings on in several of them. It is easy to get caught up, either in a positive or negative way, in the comments that are made or not made on our blogs. Yes, they are places where we can encourage and compliment each other, but they should also be places where we can learn and grow spiritually from each other. That starts in the posts we write and the comments can be an extension of that. However, it all starts with prayer and writing for God's glory not our own.
I know I am preaching to the choir with that third point, but you never know who will stumble across one of our posts.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and any of the related posts. Please feel free to offer your own insight on either Judy's and/or Victor's comments.

Related Link: Persevering Faith & The Lord's Mercy (video at Deacon Pat's blog. Thanks for that link Victor)


  1. "Please feel free to offer your own insight on either Judy's and/or Victor's comments."

    Can I offer insight on my own comments or does this become hindsight?

    Anyway ... I posted a humourous story on my Blog yesterday and received a comment that some people don't regard Catholics as Christians.

    This set me thinking. Why?

    Is it perhaps because sometimes our doctrines and beliefs don't square up with other peoples' - even Christians of other denominations.

    The Assumption and Immaculate Conception are two cases in point. Neither of them are Scriptural per se but are accepted as "Gospel" by Catholics because two men, two Popes, decided it is so.

    In 1950 Pope Piux XII after wide consultation with cardinals and bishops decreed that Mary's body was raised to Heaven. He was speaking in "infallibility".

    By the way ... only twice in the Church's history did a Pope speak in infallibility.

    The other time was in 1854 when Pope Piux IX declared the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

    These are only two examples where we are challenged by other Christians and even non-believers. Of course, with a bit of knowledge (which I haven't) we can respond with a modicum of intelligence when others ask us questions.

    But we can't all do that! Why?

    Because (speaking about the UK) Catechism is not often taught at schools these days; except (some) Catholic schools.

    Grown ups don't know their Catechism or have forgotten their Catechism if they were taught it when young.

    Priests (again in the UK) no longer teach from the pulpit. Their sermons are quick (or long and boring) monologues aimed at making you feel well and comfortable rather than addressing the basic issues of Christianity in a modern world.

    When's the last time you've heard a sermon about sin? Hell? Modern greed and materialism? And all the other evils that beset us these days?

    It seems to me that priests speak nicely from the puplit because they don't wish "to frighten the horses" with a resultant effect on the Sunday collection plate.

    I hope this is not too controversial ... but it's a start.

    By the way ... I liked the sermon from the US about the Canaanite Woman. See how Deacon Pat brings the subject back onto you and your beliefs? Video link above - well worth checking it out and leaving the Deacon a nice comment.

    God bless.

  2. And now my comments on the Canaanite Woman.

    Jesus is no doubt testing her Faith and persistance as He did at other times, for example with the man with a sick son when He asked him what do you want me to do for you? (Mark 9:24).

    Indeed Jesus teaches us to be persistant; like in the story of the widow and the judge.

    This leads to the question: Why?

    Does Jesus/God want us to beg like dogs for His favors?

    As Karinann said; we can't see Jesus in the flesh to understand whether His "No" is a test of Faith or a final and definite "No". So right now we pray ... and pray ... and wait and wait ... in His time, not ours ... in His way, not ours.

    It's what is called Faith and Hope. And Patience.

    My prayer: Dear Lord. Please give me the gift of patience and be quick about it!

    God bless.

  3. Great comments Victor. And a little hindsight is always good so sure comment on your own musings as well :) I really like Deacon Pat's homily because he is right to bring it back on us. It is all in where our faith is and how we approach Christ in it.
    Unfortunately there are priests here in the US who also do not use the pulpit and their preaching to teach. We need to hear about right and wrong and about Jesus' Real Presence in the Eucharist because I really feel that's where the unraveling starts;people have forgotten Who it is that they are there for.
    I like your prayer for patience and will join you in it. Thanks for your thoughts on these topics.
    God bless.

  4. With regard to the persistence of the Canaanite woman, I always thought that she had expectant faith. She believed Jesus was God and she believed He had the power to help her.

    Maybe to simple of a thought!

  5. I like that DG- expectant faith. We should expect things to happen because we believe Jesus is who He said He is.
    Thanks for joining the discussion and God bless!

  6. great post!

    God Bless

  7. It is my understanding that the Church allows us to believe either-or where Mary's "death" is concerned. Karinann is correct in saying that the Byzantine rite professes a "dormition" or deep sleep but that Mary did not die an earthly death.
    The Roman Rite tends to believe that she DID die an earthly death but was raised body and soul into heaven. This is another intriguing topic though...for if we believe that Mary was "without sin" due to her Immaculate Conception, then why would she undergo an earthly death? Death, in the bodily sense, entered the world through man's sin...this, I think, is why the Byzantines lean toward a transitional sleep/slumber for Mary would not have to undergo the same bodily death that WE do because she was without sin. Again, it is my understanding that there is no doctrine or dogma concerning this...the important focus being that we believe that she IS in heaven; body and soul.
    With regard to Victor's observations on the lack of quality preaching from the pulpits now-a-days...I am thankful for his comments and they have inspired me to THANK my pastor when he returns from his pilgrimage because he ALWAYS preaches about the things both Victor and Karinann have mentioned: materialism, relativism, hell, sin, abortion, contraception, the True Presence, the True Church, forgiveness, Divine Mercy, etc. Every week. Without fail. Thank you for reminding me that I should not take this gift for granted.

    And thanks to all who have tried to help me gain a better understanding of the Canaanite Woman and Jesus. I like the analogy of the doctor that Karinann gave and the "simple and expectant faith" that DG wrote about, as well.
    As per the "doctor" thoughts immediately took that one step further in imagining that I had found the ONLY doctor that could heal my children...and I was certain of that fact...would I persist? Yes, I think I would.
    Victor makes it all very applicable to our current states-in-life when he says that we pray and wait and wait and pray...I suppose this IS like the woman in the Scripture.
    Also, in thinking of my own children, I do often wait and watch to see if they approach me more than once when they are desiring something "extra-ordinary" play a new sport, for instance...if they only mention it once, I tend to believe that they were not as serious about it as they must be when they are willing to bring it to my attention several times over a period of time.

    Thank you all and thank God for allowing us to connect in this way and enrich our spirits in fellowship and discussion.

  8. You're very lucky Owner to have such a wonderful priest.

    God bless.

  9. Judy,
    Thanks for adding more to this discussion. I still wonder whether the term died used in the Roman rite in regard to Our Lady truly means what we know it to mean. I do find it hard to believe due to Mary's sinless state that she suffered death.
    As for the Canaanite Woman, yes she found the Divine Physician and so must we.

    Thank you to all who took the time to read what I think is my longest post to date either here or on my own blog. :)

  10. "I do find it hard to believe due to Mary's sinless state that she suffered death."

    Karinann, what you say here is based on the Church's teaching. And that's where I'm confused.

    Jesus was born sinless and did not sin throughout His life. But He died. So why not Mary?

    God bless.

  11. I think when Jesus talked to the Canaanite woman that he was gentle, meek, and understanding in his eyes, his tone and his mannerisms. Truly he loved her and her daughter and he used harsh words I think not for her but for the others overhearing him, whose cold hearts he could read. She easily persisted because of her own love and her being touched inside by Jesus. The incongruence of his nonverbals to the harsh verbals encouraged her rather than discouraged her.

  12. Colleen @ID~ Yours is the most beautiful explanation of this particular Scripture that I have EVER heard; and, by the way, has made it clearer to me than ever before, as well! THANK YOU KINDLY!

    Victor, I had to laugh when I read that you replied "Owner"...not sure if you realized that it's me..."Judy"...I use that as the name next to my picture so that people can be led to our website...I am the one you know from Benmakesten and A Thankful Woman's Book of Blessings. ::smile:: Also, with regard to "Jesus was sinless and yet died so why not Mary"? I'm not sure. That is a great point. Could it be that He died because He was taking on OUR inevitable punishment of earthly death for our sins...HE DID IT FOR US. Mary, although playing a special part in our Salvation by bringing forth the Messiah in NOT our Savior and therefore...why would she have to take on death at all? Just wondering "out loud" here and keeping this interesting discussion alive:)

  13. I agree with Judy, Coleen's explanation is one of the most beautiful I've heard. It also makes sense. Thanks Colleen for your deep and beautiful insight on this.
    Victor in response to your last comment, I would say this: Jesus had to die, chose to die so that sinful man could be redeemed. His blood would be the only thing that could bring about our redemption. I would not get too caught up in the terminology though. Perhaps if Mary truly died, it might be likened to when someone dies in their sleep, except in Mary's case she did not have to wait until final judgement to be reunited with her body. We are not meant to understand everything here; one day when we stand in God's presence we will understand all. Judy gave a great explanation in her last comment as well. (That's what happens when you homeschool 10 children!) :)

  14. Interesting post and comments. I was always taught that Mother Mary died and that "falling asleep" was simply a term used to describe death back then. It seems to me that Mary's passing was likely nothing like our own deaths though as heaven is also a state of being, therefore for her it was probably as simple as walking through a door would be for us. So for her it was probably as simple as falling asleep. A few saints have written about her death and Assumption - St. Gregory and St Elizabeth among others. I guess you're right, Karin, we'll never really know until we die exactly how this happened. Even the early church fathers had different views on her death.

    I like your explanation about the Canaanite woman too. Beautiful :)

  15. Credit goes not to me but to Fr. John Bartunek and more so to Holy Spirit for giving him the Charism to illuminate scripture. In THE BETTER PART, "Christ the Friend" mediation on Mt. 15:21-28 he wrote, "His objection to the woman's first petition must not have been too strenuous; at least, she saw something in his eyes or heard something in his voice that encouraged her to persevere. . . . We should note that it is possible to say harsh words in a gentle way, which may have been the case here." That was the meditation that fueled my earlier comment. I just think that even with Christ shielding his heavenly glory, he was still True God, meek and humble of heart,and a humble, pleading heart, kneeling and recognizing his divinity (Bartunek like Fulton Sheen notes how the Blind Man, the Woman at the Well and this woman begin with "Son of David" but move to a recognizing of the divinity of Christ as their encounter with the Lord progresses. Also with eyes of faith, I don't think it was just the look in his eyes. He loved her, and she could be deeply touched inside even if the evangelist didn't record this, but only the words that passed between them.

  16. Hey Karin! Come to think of it, I think you're right! This probably is your longest post ;)

    Just teasing you :) It's a great post! Hmmm, number three is probably for me and not the choir though. I've been guilty of this.

  17. Colleen,
    Very interesting about the Blind Man, the Woman at the Well and the Canaanite woman. I never noticed this on the part of the Canaanite woman before. Thanks for bringing it up. This gentle unveiling of who He's a theme that runs throughout the Gospels and a wonderful thing to reflect on.

  18. The length of this post scared me a bit- glad it didn't scare any of you. This has been a great discussion and exactly the reason I posted it.
    Colleen, I have had Fr. John's book on my to buy list, I think it's time I did. He always has such great insight.

  19. Karinann, this was a great post title. I couldn't wait to read it.
    The Holy Spirit really teaches me through THE BETTER PART. My first impression was how could I have heard and read some of these passages so many times in my 4 decade long life and not have picked up on some of the insights. Of course as I just read in Fr. Chris O'Donnell's book on Mary and the Holy Spirit, we need to be like Mary and ponder the words of scripture before we come to understanding. Also the four part meditation on each passage helps ensure that we look at each passage in four different layers so as to spend more time listening and becoming docile to the Holy Spirit as he draws us closer to understanding Christ as Lord, Teacher, Friend, and how we are called to serve him and build up his kingdom.
    I am going through THE BETTER PART sequentially and it has been miraculous how a teaching from a given passage will be immediately applicable to the prior day or the current day's experience for me. When I miss a couple days, I sometimes find that if only I would have stayed faithful in daily study/meditation, I might have picked up a bit of wisdom that would have helped, as the learning was coming a couple days after when I could have used it. It is a pricey book though, but it is of highest quality and you will be using it very steady over the course of a year or more. I bought it for one of our Parish's priest and he loved it too.

  20. Thanks for expounding a bit on Fr. John's book. The friend who was very influential in my return to the faith recommended that I begin prayerfully reading Scripture. I am convinced that if I left this part out, I would not have had the conversion experience I had, nor would I have experienced Christ's healing the way I had and continue to. Above all I don't think I would have a relationship with Jesus without first coming to know Him (not just about Him) through Scripture. Scripture is such a treasure and God's love letter to us. Glad you liked the title-figured I better use something catchy if I was going to write such a long post :)

  21. Sorry Judy for calling you "Owner". I thought it safer to copy the name next to the photo.

    We'll really never know whether/if Mary died or "fell asleep". Falling asleep is still a term used today for death.

    We can also only speculate as to why Mary did not die (if she didn't) whereas Jesus did.

    The thing is ... we should believe in true Faith without questionning.

    We must also be very aware that it is these very beliefs, and other Catholic beliefs, which create confusion and divisions between us and other Christians and non-believers too.

    God bless.

  22. Good point Victor. That's why it is such a gift to have the Magesterium to interpret for us and to teach us. You are right- all that matters is that we believe in the true faith as it has been handed down to us. God may be in the details but so is the devil and he can trip us up in those little things. Language is important but we need to remember that translations vary and with it words and phrases. All we need to know is that Mary is in heaven body and soul and reign as our Queen and Mother.

  23. About the Canaanite woman: she did what a good mother does: pleads for her child. I do think that persistence in prayer gives us repeat opportunities to say "yes" to the will of God. This is one way God helps us to develop a strong will to do what He wants. He may not answer our prayer with a "yes", but He always gives us what we need under the circumstances.

    On the death of Mary, I think logically (to me) that if Jesus died, Mary who is not greater than He, also died. But to be truthful, what difference does it make. The point is that Jesus came and brought Mary to heaven in her glorified body. He didn't leave His mother to rot in a grave. It is a sign that if we seek to practice the virtues of Mary, we will attain heaven and at the end of the world will be with Jesus. The Assumption also shows the great love Jesus has for His mother and that we ought to love her in the same way He does. That means to me that if I say I am a Christian, I can't go around dissing the mother of Jesus as some do.

  24. No apologies necessary Victor. It just made me giggle because when I saw "Owner" I scrolled back up wondering aloud, "Now who is this "Owner" to whom Victor is replying" only to realize "Ah ha! I am!!!" LOL