One of the most profound lessons I’ve learned in my experience as a catechetical minister is that the core message of the Gospel is not about simple character development (ala Chicken Soup for the Soul) but about radical realignment of our being.
I was reminded of this notion by this Sunday’s Gospel about the Canaanite woman who begs Jesus to cure her daughter and perseveres in her request until Jesus, moved by her great faith, responds and heals her daughter (Matthew 15:21-28) .
Unfortunately, most of the commentaries I came across about this Gospel reduce it to the simple notion of perseverance. Yes, the woman was persistent and yes, we must be more persistent in our prayer. However, the most stunning thing about this Gospel is that this woman:
- is a Canaanite meaning that she belonged to a people who worshipped other gods than the God of Israel;
- calls Jesus “Lord, Son of David” meaning that she came to recognize his power and authority;
- she bowed down before him meaning that she recognized Jesus’ divinity;
- she humbles herself (“even the dogs feed on the crumbs that fall from their master’s table”).
In short, this woman totally realigned her life to make Jesus the center of her life and to declare her complete dependence on God.
Every time we teach a lesson on the Gospel, we need to go deeper than offering a simple “self-improvement” message that aims at character development and search for the call to ongoing radical realignment of our lives to Jesus Christ.
With reference to this particular Gospel passage, we should not stop at the lesson of perseverance in prayer but should ask ourselves:
- what are we “bowing down before” (giving our attention to) instead of making Jesus the center of our lives?
- in what area of my life do I need to turn to Jesus and ask him to bring healing instead of trying to get by on my own?
- how can I realign myself with Jesus today?
The key to a more evangelizing catechesis is to move beyond simple character development and invite people to conversion – an ongoing radical realignment of one’s life in order to conform more closely with Jesus Christ!