The Canaanite woman approached the Lord. “My child is possessed by a demon!” I’ve heard this myself, many times. “Father, an exorcism, please! This child is possessed.” Meanwhile, Bamm Bamm comes trailing along on the way out of church after Mass, Tonka fire engine and rubber Tyrannosaurus Rex in tow. [Click here for Spanish.]
So we can relate to the Canaanite mother. What the devil has gotten into him? Or: what the devil has gotten into all these people? We might be concerned about our little ones, or medium-sized ones, or just this whole crazy world! So we cry out to the great high priest, Who alone can overcome all evil with the power of His infinite goodness. We cry, “Have pity on us, Lord, Son of David!” Have pity on us, divine Messiah! Heal us. Calm our hearts. Pacify our souls.
Babies seem very cute. But it doesn’t take long for the “issues” involved in the operation of the human heart to begin to surface. Newborns seem simple and cherubic. But one year olds? Two? Three? Neither simple nor cherubic.
I don’t remember, of course, but my mom tells me that I had a habit of waking up in the middle of the night in my crib, standing up, and then rocking the whole crib against the wall, banging it—as if it were a little ship that I was trying to navigate out of the harbor of the dark room, into some imaginary wide-open sea. I mean, I was a good little baby. But I had wild dreams, I guess, and I experienced our perennial human dissatisfaction with the limitations of earthly existence. Who says we can’t sail to the South Pole right now? Why not?
Anyone ever see the movie “The Truman Show?” Jim Carrey the comedian actually played a pretty profound character. He was trapped in a geodesic dome the size of a town. He had been there his whole life. He was the star of a reality show–had been since birth–and he didn’t know it. Everyone he knew was a paid actor. He alone, in the town-size set, didn’t know that it was a set. He was the most-popular tv star on earth. Everyone watched his show, since he was so sincere on camera. Naturally–he didn’t know he was on camera.
Truman’s life progressed pleasantly enough, for thirty-some years. Then a profound dissatisfaction began to stir in his soul. The town was supposedly on an “island.” He wanted to set sail. The producer of the reality show tried all kinds of desperate tricks to keep Truman from getting on a boat, but Truman outsmarted him. Next thing you know, Truman sails out, towards the horizon. Then his boat slams into the cinderblock outer wall of the dome, which is painted sky blue. He literally crashes into the sky. And now that he’s up-close to it, he sees that there’s a stage door. So he opens it. He turns his back on everything familiar—his whole world. Then he walks out the door.
That is what we are like. Desperately, destructively dissatisfied—without the peace and grace of Christ. Without the promise that life in Christ offers us.
The devil seduced the human race with an appeal that hit home. Be like God! Our First Parents succumbed to the temptation of wanting to be like God precisely because God Himself made us for the express purpose of being like Him. Satan could not have led the great race of squirrels into sin with such a seduction. “Squirrels! Turn away from the Law, and follow me, and you will be like God.” Silence. Blank little squirrel stares. Acorns crunching in their mouths. No takers.
Because squirrels don’t have “being like God” in them. But we do. So we can also wind up with the devil in us, big time. A sharp, well-proportioned knife can do both great good and great harm. A human being is a sharp, well-proportioned spiritual knife.
So: Have pity on us, O Christ of God! Pacify our tortured souls. Gather us into Your flock and guide us with Your own infallible words. Succor us with the life-giving nectar that flows from your own wounded Heart—wounded for us, wounded unjustly, so that You could heal our self-inflicted human-heart wounds.
This is mankind’s cry, from the depths of our terrestrial life. The cry begins to sound out from our throats, in a jumble of desperate dissatisfactions, before we even learn how to distinguish right from wrong.
Jesus Christ is the balm for it, the medicine. He heals mankind unto eternal life. Also: He is a Jew of the Jews, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, a member of the most-elite and ancient nation, the nation that God gathered to Himself first. Do we have standing to call out to the Messiah of Israel, and hope for an answer and some help? Can we sick goyim go to this Jewish doctor?
Well, apparently, we have to say Please. We have to humble ourselves. We don’t really have a right to address the Christ. But we can do it anyway.
The Canaanite mother didn’t think twice about begging or even groveling. He’s the Christ, so why should I stand on ceremony? she thought to herself. He’s got what I need. I will beg. Because I believe in Him.
O woman, great is your faith! He said to her. If He could say the same to us, as we implore His grace and mercy during Holy Mass, then our healing unto eternal life has already begun.