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The silence of God and The Power of Persistence

Posted on:March 15th, 2021

LENTEN RETREAT

A TALK DELIVERED AT ST. AUGUSTINE'S CHAPLAINCY 2, MORONFOLU STREET, AKOKA, YABA, LAGOS ON THE 16TH OF MARCH, 2021

By: Rev Fr. AKARAONYE Samuel Ifeanyi.

Topic: The silence of God and The Power of Persistence

Father! How long do I need to pray before getting an answer from God? It makes no sense to me praying for the same thing all the time. It scares me, as things keep getting worse as I pray. I feel that I need to take a break from praying!” This was what someone who came to consult me with over some pressing issues said. My first response was a simple question: “what do you plan to do as an alternative to prayer?” Of course, I did not get an answer!

Some of us may have had the experience of getting a “no” over a request when we expected a resounding “yes.” Those times we feel that we have done our best and put in a lot. It could be those moments in your life when you are remarkably close to success, but you still cannot have it, and you have two options; to boldly give up or to “foolishly” continue to try!

The description above fits the experience of the Canaanite woman in the Gospel narrative today (Matt. 15:21-28). The Gospel tells us that our Lord withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon after addressing the Pharisees and the Scribes who wanted to know why his disciples could not keep the tradition of the elders with regards to washing hands before meals.

Notice here that our Lord went beyond the Jewish boundaries by going over to that Gentile region. Now a woman shows up with a very pressing request; the healing for her daughter tormented by a demon. She may have thought that since our Lord Jesus, a Jew, broke the traditional protocols by crossing to the Gentile region, he could also overcome the inter-tribal barriers between Jews and Gentiles and heal her daughter. The First Reading from the Prophet Isaiah (56:1, 6-7) tells us among other things that foreigners will benefit from the house of God.

The narrative tells us that Jesus did not say a word to her first request, “have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! A demon torments my daughter”. The woman did not give up; she followed Jesus, and his disciples probably repeating the same thing. In fact, the disciples asked Jesus to send her away, but he allowed her and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” In response, the woman did homage to the Lord and said, “Lord, help me.” Furthermore, our Lord said, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

One would expect this poor woman to give up at this point Jesus seems to liken her to a dog, but she gives a fantastic reply, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters. At this, Jesus said, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish, and instantly her daughter was healed.

 *Timeless Lessons from the Canaanite Woman*

There are many things we could learn from the faith-filled request of the Canaanite woman in the Gospel narrative today that could help us recharge and rejuvenate our prayer lives.

 *Reverent Approach/Humility* : The woman comes to our Lord with profound reverence and respect, and not with an unnecessary outburst of entitlement. Notice that each time she spoke, she referred to Jesus as Lord. St. Paul tells the Romans (10:9), “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.” She also called Jesus “Son of David,” which means the Messiah; in other words, the savior. Finally, she worshiped the Lord.  It takes faith to give a true worship (John 4:24).

 *Persistence and Patience:* The Canaanite woman comes with persistent faith in her request for the healing of her daughter but not without patience. Faith is impossible without patience, which involves waiting for God to act (Psalm 37:7). David says I waited patiently for the Lord, He inclined to me and heard my cry (Psalm 40:1). The Book of the Lamentations (3:25) says that God is good to those who wait for Him, the souls that seek Him,

 *Moving Forward: Faith Does Not Give Up*

Life has a lot to do with faith. In the Gospel Reading of last Sunday (Matt. 14:22-33), Jesus called Peter (a Jew) a man of little faith. In the Gospel of this Sunday, an unnamed woman (a Gentile) received the name “woman of great faith.” This tells us that we are either “faith-filled” or “faith-less” as we march through the corridors of life.

One common thing with faith wherever you see it is that it does not give up. We often face a similar experience like the Canaanite woman in our life’s journey when we ask and do not receive, and we feel the pressure to give up and back off.

All winners share one thing in common, and that is persistence; they do not quit. And that is the simple reason quitters do not win. You have gone too far to give up. You have invested so much why do you have to back off?  Do not give up on that dream; do not give up on that plan; do not give up on that prayer. Yes, you have been on it for a long time now, and it does not seem to make sense do not quit; push on to stay in the game.

It often gets worse before it gets better. There would be an end to all these hurdles and challenges. Do not be weary in pushing on against all the odds, St. Paul says that God will answer you in due season if you do not give up (Gal.6:9).

It’s essential to understand that at times God appears to be silent.  This is an act of deep love on His part because it is  actually an invitation to turn to Him on a very deep level.  God’s silence allows us to move from a faith fed by accolades and emotion to a faith fostered by pure trust in His mercy.  

 

BIBLICAL PASSAGES TO BUTTRESS THE POWER OF PERSISTENCE

Galatians 6:9 

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Luke 18:1-8 

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’”

James 1:12 

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Romans 12:12 

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer

James 5:11 

Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful

Romans 5:3-5 

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Colossians 4:2 

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving

John 15:7 

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you

2 Chronicles 15:7 

But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 

Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you

 1 Peter 4:12 

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

Reflect, today, upon those moments in life when you feel as though God is silent.  Know that those moments are actually moments of invitation to trust on a new and deeper level.  Make an act of trust and allow your faith to become more fully purified so that God can do great things in you and through you!