WEDNESDAY OF THE EIGHTEENTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
At that time, says the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.
Thus says the Lord: The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall take your tambourines, and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers. Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit. For there shall be a day when sentinels will call in the hill country of Ephraim: “Come, let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God.”
For thus says the Lord: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O Lord, your people, the remnant of Israel.”
Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him,
and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.”
For the Lord has ransomed Jacob,
and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall become like a watered garden,
and they shall never languish again.
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
In our readings today from Jeremiah and the gospel of Matthew, we see timing and human choices playing out in how God’s plans come to pass. Jeremiah prophesies to the Israelites who have been conquered and are captive in Babylon. God is reminding them that, although they are in exile and dominated by a foreign power, they are still loved, still His special people meant to be a light to all the world. The timing involved is a long timescale; God’s history with His people goes a long way back and continues well into the future. God will not move overnight to deliver them from the hands of their oppressors, but He will indeed move to bring them back to their land. Moreover, He will move to give them Himself, to deliver them from their sins and bring them into His everlasting kingdom. But choice enters in; Israel often resists and chooses against the grace of God, and God must continue pursuing them.
In the gospel, we see different dynamics of choice and timing playing out. We see the Canaanite woman pursuing Jesus, begging for her daughter’s deliverance. She is going about things out of order. God’s plan was to bless the nations of the world, including this Canaanite woman, but through Israel. Jesus was to preach to Israel first, and Israel was to take the light of the gospel to the Gentiles. Hence Jesus’s analogy about the children and the dogs; the master does not plan to leave the dogs to go hungry, but they are fed in order, after the children. But choice enters in; Israel does not know the time of their visitation, and this woman is here, now, desperate for Jesus and His salvation. She is not chosen, but she chooses Jesus and places her faith in Him. And God moves instantly to deliver the woman’s daughter from the power of the enemy and kingdom of darkness, so she too can come to faith in Jesus.
When I pray, am I patient for God’s timing? Do I persist in placing my faith in Jesus when the answer to my prayers seems to be no or not now? Do I make choices and live my life in a way that cooperates with God and His will for me?
Today, let’s align our choices with God’s will and, whether God is moving slowly and imperceptibly or instantly to answer our prayers, let’s thank Him ahead of time for what He is about.