The Grace of Persistence – Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

One of the natural gifts possessed by inventors, musicians, writers, scientists, researchers, athletes, and anyone who seeks to perfect a skill or talent, is persistence. These days we are witnessing the dogged persistence of women and men looking for a vaccine for COVID-19.

We have seen the use of that gift in those trying to heal people of cancer and all kinds of deadly problems and diseases. If I have a strong enough desire for something, I will strive and give my best energy.

I won’t give up just because I didn’t quite get what I sought. I try and try and try, and I become even more motivated to achieve what I’m looking for. And that usually means working alongside others, on my sports or research team.

Even the most gifted musicians keep practicing. Writers often go through many drafts before the final product. The Israelites wandered for forty years. Those suffering from crippling additions keep trying.

All those in our world with a good and noble desire will keep fighting – for the needs of refugees, for the eradication of landmines and nuclear arms, for tighter gun control and for racial justice.

The Gospel today offers a great example of persistence. The Canaanite woman will not give up. She persists in her pleas to Jesus, in spite of his reminder to her that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

She was not one of Jesus’ people.  We hear the disciples’ view that she keeps shouting after us. Hurray! She persists and says, Lord, help me.

She even comes across as feisty as she argues with Jesus’ statement about throwing the scraps of food to the dogs. Jesus himself doesn’t earn many points for niceness. She persists and he finally relents, by saying, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.

Persistence pays off. Note that her persistence is accompanied by humility. She knelt before Jesus and begged. That same gift of humility is found in some of the most talented artists and writers. They will not take their talents for granted. The woman couldn’t take for granted that her daughter would be healed.

We see illustrations of persistence and perseverance today – woman seeking a full role in the ministry of the Church, laity hoping to have greater recognition for their contributions to the Christian community.

We can all draw hope from the words of Nelson Mandela. After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Vicky Chen
    Posted at 03:45h, 16 August Reply

    Thank you for focusing on the Canaanite woman today, Fr. Phil. I have been trying to find examples to relate to Ignatius’ points in dealing with spiritual desolation. She sets a perfect example for his teaching #318-#322. During this seemingly unending pandemic, I have developed the hobby of searching online and cooking some yummy healthy food for myself! Even that takes perseverance and patience.

    The Canaanite woman teaches me that I too can be creative in my conversation with Jesus.

    Mary, our Mother in heaven who unceasingly pray and draw us closer to her Son, loves us no less than the Canaanite mother. We need more help than ever in this confusing and crazy world ‘possessed by demons’ in so many ways. Have mercy on us, Jesus, son of our living God.

  • Barbara Lewis
    Posted at 05:43h, 16 August Reply

    God bless you, Father.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 09:51h, 16 August Reply

    Thank you Philip!

  • David Shulist
    Posted at 11:33h, 17 August Reply

    Thanks Philip for this.

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