When I was a hospital chaplain, I was paged to visit a patient who was quite ill in the coronary care unit. When I got there, the patient’s family was standing around anxiously awaiting to hear from the doctor about the status of their loved one. I introduced myself to this family, which was from another culture; they looked like they might be from India, Pakistan or Nepal. They thanked me for coming and politely said they wouldn’t need my services because they had their own prayer ritual that they would use from their religion which was Hinduism. I took that as a way of them asking me to leave; so I wished them well and was turning to leave when the patient’s wife followed after me and said: “But chaplain, we would like it very much if you could join in our prayer ritual with us!” I was happily surprised that this family wanted to include me, even though my culture, my race, my religion, was totally different from their own. We all held hands and I listened as they prayed some prayers from their tradition and in their own language. I thanked them for including me, and promised I would pray for their loved one in my own tradition. When I later thought about the experience, seeing how much they wanted me to be with them in prayer, I thought about the Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel. She came from a very different culture and religion from Jesus and His disciples, but she was desperate as a mother. Her daughter was extremely ill, beset by a demon, and the mother had nobody else to turn to so she sought out Jesus. The disciples of Jesus wanted him to send her away because she was “different.” But Jesus did not send her away. He tested her and marveled at her response. Jesus looked beyond gender and race, and saw into the human heart. Each of us has our own community where we feel comfortable. It may be based on skin color, social class, gender, political party or nationality. But these are not of ultimate importance, especially in God’s eyes. And as followers of Jesus Christ, these distinctions should not be of ultimate importance to us. This week we experienced the ugly sins of racial hatred and extreme nationalism raise their vicious heads in our country. The Catholic Church condemns both of these as social sins, contrary to the Gospel and to our Church’s social teaching. The challenge to you and to me is, can you and I look beyond our own group and marvel at the faith of others? Always remember that in the Mind of God “different” does not mean “deficient.” Perhaps today or someday God will send a person into our lives just like the Canaanite woman, in need of our help and acceptance. Will we recognize the offer of grace or will we send that person away?
~ Fr. John