SHOWING SOME DESPERATION (Mt 15:21-28): 17 August 2008 (Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

SHOWING SOME DESPERATION (Mt 15:21-28): 17 August 2008 (Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Today’s Readings

A line from an 80’s song started playing in my head as I was thinking about this Sunday’s gospel.  It goes:  “She calls out to the man on the street:  ‘Sir, can you help me?'”

The line is, of course, from Phil Collin’s no. 1 single, “Another Day in Paradise” back in 1989.  The song, which won the Grammy Record of the Year that year, was written to call attention to the plight not only of the homeless in the US, but also of refugees all over the world.

The first stanza of Collins’ song paints a much too familiar scene:  A homeless woman asks a man for help, but the man responds by quickening his pace. The song tells us, “He pretends he can’t hear her, starts to whistle as he crosses the street.”

Been there, done that, haven’t we?  But so has the Lord!

In the gospel, a Canaanite woman–perhaps in a tone not too different from the homeless lady’s–calls out to the Lord for help.  The Lord doesn’t turn away from her like the man in the song, but neither does he rush to the woman’s rescue!  On the contrary–and to my disappointment and maybe yours too–he seems reluctant to help!  As he later explains, the reason for his hesitation is that he has been “sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

That’s it?!  Lord, I hope you don’t mind my saying so, but while I understand that you need to keep your priorities, this woman’s pretty desperate about her daughter, isn’t she?  She’s so desperate that to your disciples’ horror, she follows you around like a dog!  And to make matters worse, that’s exactly what you compare her to when you explain why you can’t help.

I don’t know, but I don’t like it too much when you speak so bluntly.  That’s how you sounded when you spoke to your parents back in the Temple in Jerusalem when you were just twelve.  Not exactly one of my favorite scenes in your life!

I also get uneasy when you seem to withhold help as you did with your mother at that wedding in Cana when she discreetly tipped you about the wine supply.  I just don’t get it!  You eventually help most of the time anyway, so why take your time?  Why withhold help until what seems like the last minute?

I think I prefer a sweeter Lord, if you please, a Savior who is always gentle and who always–and immediately–rushes to my rescue, calms my storm before it gets a chance to rock my boat.  But the problem is: Is that you?  Is that your way?

But come to think of it, we don’t exactly have the right to complain about you. In his song, Phil Collins tells us to “think twice”–presumably about the lot of the homeless.  Not without irony, he says, “It’s just another day for you and me in paradise.”  When confronted with the problems of people and their pleas for help, that’s what we usually do:  We respond by fleeing as fast and as far as we possibly can to hide away in our own private paradise.

You didn’t do that.  You could have stayed in Paradise, but you didn’t.  You could have kept your distance, but you chose not to.  You left Paradise–literally–to be one of us and to be here among us drenched in our sweat and tears and stained in our blood.  Instead of complaining, I should be thanking you for leaving paradise to join us.

And we could learn a lesson or two from the Canaanite woman.  When you tell her that it’s not proper to toss children’s food to dogs, she surpises you–and probably herself too–when she says she’ll happily take the scrap that falls from the table.

What spunk!  But in her you see great faith.  Faith?!  The woman is just determined to get her daughter healed!  She’s just being desperate!  But maybe that’s what faith is, after all:  determination enough to keep praying and desperation enough to keep waiting for help.

Whatever reason you may have for taking your time and not rushing to our rescue, our waiting, if nothing else, will be our chance to show some desperation.

But you–you will call it faith.

Here’s a Quick Question for you:  “What do you think of such a Lord?”  Tell him.  And if you feel up to it, post it here.

Note:  Find below the lyrics to Phil Collins’ song, “Another Day in Paradise,” and the song’s music video.


She calls out to the man on the street
“Sir, can you help me?
It’s cold and I’ve nowhere to sleep,
Is there somewhere you can tell me?

He walks on, doesn’t look back
He pretends he can’t hear her
Starts to whistle as he crosses the street
Seems embarrassed to be there

Oh think twice, its another day for
You and me in paradise
Oh think twice, its just another day for you,
You and me in paradise

She calls out to the man on the street
He can see she’s been crying
Shes got blisters on the soles of her feet
Can’t walk but she’s trying

Oh think twice…

Oh lord, is there nothing more anybody can do
Oh lord, there must be something you can say

You can tell from the lines on her face
You can see that she’s been there
Probably been moved on from every place
cos she didnt fit in there

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