Second Sunday in Lent 2021

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

As Christians, we learn in so many ways that though we live in this world we are not of this world. Our minds and our hearts are directed heavenward. That is our home, our peace, our mission. No matter the words we may choose, every prayer we utter in essence is the Lord’s Prayer, for how may we truly communicate with our Father in Heaven unless we too are meant to be citizens of Heaven? How may we know that His Name is hallowed unless we too are meant to be holy? When we petition God, or when we pray in intercession for one of our brothers or sisters in Christ, are we not really asking for God’s plan at that moment to be the same as our plan? Are we not asking for God to reaffirm that bridge He has erected into eternity between Himself and fallen humanity? Are we not asking Him to see and to hear us as if indeed there is no separation between us? Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done. On Earth as it is in Heaven: The literal coming together of Earth and Heaven, so that finally we may live in peace in the redeemed world for which we are being fashioned even now by the Holy Spirit. Until Earth and Heaven literally join together, we must persevere in this lifetime in a world not suited for us. For the Devil is the Prince of this fallen and outcast world, and so as Christians we cannot but be marginalized and dismissed as fools by those folks who have chosen to be more in line with our demonic landlord.

This is what Saint Paul means when he writes in his First Epistle to the Corinthians that we Christians are fools for Christ. To be a Christian is to be marginalized. To be a Christian is to be misunderstood, dismissed, persecuted, perhaps even killed. The Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel is an outsider, a stranger, a nuisance everyone around her tries to silence. Like what some adults say about children, she is meant to be seen, but not heard, and ideally she would not be seen either. When we think upon our lot as Christians, how we are marginalized in this demonic world of ours, how we are cast off as strangers and fools by those persons who have neither time nor patience for Christ Jesus, we start to see ourselves in that Canaanite woman.

She comes across in the Gospel reading as a foreigner. Christ Jesus at first reinforces that perception. He ignores her, and then when she persists He reminds her “it is not meet to take the children’s bread and to cast it to dogs.” Every door in this world has been closed to her, and it appears that Heaven’s door has been shut hard in her face as well. Her plight is desperate, but so is ours, for the context practically screams at us to view ourselves in her. We are not at home in our fallen world, for as Christians we are not meant to be citizens of the Devil, but neither are we worthy of Our Lord. Indeed, until we come face to face with Our Father in Heaven, and our present trials have fallen away like a spent shadow, we live out our Christian lives between a rock and a hard place. We may know moments of joy and peace, but invariably they are fleeting and over time perverted. What is persistent is the cross, our sinfulness, our unworthiness, our foolishness in this fallen world of ours, and our separation from the heavenly world yet to come.

I am reminded of my own plight when I came to live with my grandmother before entering into the third grade. My parents, my brother, and I had been in a terrible car accident on Highway 101 just north of Buellton. Because both my parents died before the paramedics could arrive, I endured many months of rehabilitation in my grandmother’s home. I knew and loved my grandmother, but I was a stranger with most everyone else. Worse than a stranger, I was a nuisance, a scared boy prone to sudden bursts of tears with a penchant for nightmares. I did not suffer in silence. I suppose the talkative Italian portion of my ethnicity would never have allowed for quiet resignation. For quite some time, I was the troubled child, loud, maladjusted, sometimes downright mean. I was the victim in the wheelchair who actually would lose sympathy the longer the adults had to contend with me. For all my irascibility, though, I never hated anyone, not even the driver whose eighteen-wheeler knocked us off the highway. I remember seeing him in the trial that followed. Several tall men literally carried me in a chair up to the witness stand like an enfeebled child Pope in his Sedia Gestatoria. As I answered the questions posed by the prosecuting attorney, I focused my attention on that poor man. He was as much an outcast as me. He could not bear to look directly into my eyes, but even more importantly I noticed then that no one else in the courtroom would look directly at him. He was as alone as any man in his situation could be, and though everyone in the crowded courtroom looked at me with rapt attention I knew that I was just as alone at that moment. I believe that that is when I started to heal. For me, the road to recovery still had many twists and turns to endure, but I never again felt abandoned nor cut off from grace. Wherever I might go, I would go with God, for I recognized then that God is the God of strangers.

In today’s Gospel, Christ Jesus comes off at first glance as cruel. He ignores the pleas of the Canaanite woman, and then He rebukes her as a dog unworthy of the “bread” meant for God’s chosen people. This “bread” is Christ Jesus Himself: His offering of Himself so that through Him we may be adopted sons and daughters of the Father. The Canaanite woman is not worthy of Him, and as we see ourselves in her we too are rebuked as not worthy of Him. The Canaanite woman is alone in her pains and her wretchedness, and as we see ourselves in her we too are alone in our pains and in our wretchedness. The Canaanite woman is offered a choice: She may surrender to her despair, or she may cry out all the more for the God who seems to have put her away. She chooses to cry out all the more, and as we see ourselves in her we too may cry out all the more. We too may have faith not only in the God who consoles us but also in the God who seems to have abandoned us. We too may have faith in the God of strangers. If only we persist with God, even when God seems so distant from us that death appears as our only refuge, then we shall start to know what it is to be faithful. Then, we shall start to know that peace that will stay with us no matter how hard and lonely the road may be for us going forward. Then, we shall be joyful even for the crumbs that may fall from the Master’s table. To find joy and peace in so little is the first intimation of eternal life, so for that we unworthy strangers should pray.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Published by Michael Sean Erickson

I write, act, and produce films in Los Angeles. Everything else is conjecture.

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