Today’s readings (August 3, 2011) show two different responses of faith. In the first reading, the Israelites are preparing to enter the promised land. At God’s command, scouts are sent ahead to explore the area. The scouts return with reports that the land does “does indeed flow with milk and honey” and has much fruit to offer. But they also report that “However, the people who are living in the land are fierce, and the towns are fortified and very strong.” The scouts fear they could not win against the current inhabitants. Only Caleb believes they could be successful. Generally, we do well to examine a situation before entering but what the people appear to have forgetten is that this is where God has led them. As long as they follow God’s will, they will be successful. For failing to trust God, they must spend 40 years in the desert.
Turning to today’s Gospel, we see a very different faith. Here is a Canaanite women, not even a Jew, who comes to Jesus believing he can drive out the demon in her daughter. At first, Jesus ignores the woman. His disciples would have seen this as appropriate because she is not a Jew. She persists. The disciples ask Jesus to send her away. He says to the woman, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” She still persists. Jesus tells her he cannot give to dogs what was meant for the children of Israel. This is an insult against her but she still persists, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” She believes, she knows, that anything Jesus has to offer would be enough to heal her daughter. Jesus proclaims her faith to be great and heals her daughter.
Who are you more like? Are you like the Israelites who seek to enter the promised land but are fearful of the dangers that lay ahead? Or you like the Canaanite woman who believes indeed has the power to heal her daughter even with the scraps from the table?
We might all look for the easy way out. Jesus says “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened …. my yoke is easy, my burden light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Easy and light are relative terms. It does not mean there will be no problems but it will be easier to face those problems with Jesus at our side.