4 August 2010 Wednesday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 31, 1-7; Resp Psalm: Jeremiah 31, 10-13; Matthew 15, 21-28
Have you ever been constantly loved; a love that grew and developed from years ago, and continues until today and forever? If you have, or wished to have someone like that, then the readings from Jeremiah will tell you about this kind of love. This is God’s love for Israel. Here is one of the most beautiful passages in Scripture. The Lord says, “With age-old love I have loved you” (Jer 31: 3).
Constancy is one of the most important aspects of true and authentic love. It is not a love “that does not change” — it is a love that grows, develops and deepens but is not denied or withdrawn when the beloved commits a mistake or says a hurting remark. Love constantly changes because the lover and the beloved grows, both as individuals and as people in a relationship. Love is not static and stale. It is dynamic.
Constancy involves the heart. The dictionary gives us its synonyms: loyalty, faithfulness, fidelity, commitment, adherence, allegiance, dedication and devotion. It tells us that constancy is about keeping our gaze on our beloved. No other person can replace whom we love.
To love is to desire. To desire is to have some concrete preference for the beloved, the object of our love. Even God has to have some concrete hopes for every single person He loves. He has to choose Israel among many. Jesus has to choose the life of a simple and ordinary person if He is to love every one of us, regardless of status. He chooses His disciples and His constant companions like Martha, Mary, Lazarus, Mary Magdalene. And they too know Whom they love. That is why it is important to know who we are and how distinct we are from others: our uniqueness illuminates how God personally deals and cares for us.
But loving is not just about having a natural specific preference. It also involves some fondness, admiration, affection, and care. To have some of those, one invests in the relationship. And that involves time. It consists of quality moments spent being and living with the beloved. It’s indeed an “age-old” love.
Today, we remember St. John Mary Vianney, the patron of priests. But let me expand the meaning to all of us who are called to be “priest, prophet and king” in baptism. Being priests means to be in constant worship with the Lord. When we hear, read, reflect and study the Scriptures, we are practicing our priesthood. When we profess our faith and unceasingly pray for those in need, we are doing our priestly vocation. When we sing, respond and actively participate in our liturgies especially at mass, we live our priesthood.
There are times when we think that the Lord does not answer our prayers. Sometimes we feel that we have been abandoned by the Lord when tragedy befalls us. There are moments when we have the impression that we have gone too far from the Lord because of our sinfulness and returning to the Lord is a long way to go. We believe that a return to holiness is a taxing and arduous task because it would demand an overhaul of ourselves.
But then the Gospel tells us otherwise. The Canaanite woman knows what she wants and insists on having her daughter healed. She is not disappointed or discouraged by the crowd, the apostles or even Jesus. The more she faces rejection, the more her desire grows, and the more she focuses on her daughter, the more insistent she becomes. And because of that kind of faith, Jesus grants her request. With insistent and relentless prayer, the Lord purifies and forms in us a genuine faith.
The Lord loves us with an “age-old” love. And when He does, we trust that He will gather ourselves again (as healing), or bring people together again (as reconciliation), or having everyone one else united in love (as one community in worship).
On our part, the Lord trains us to focus on what we desire by intensifying them, until we discover a piece of the Lord’s heart planted in us. At the end of the day, what we most desire is also what the Lord passionately wants for us.