Sunday, August 17, 2014

Pope Francis, the Canaanite woman, and Bernie Stowe

This week, Pope Francis visited South Korea.  The papal ride from the airport to the city was broadcast live, showing images of the pope in a small, dark gray compact Kia escorted front and back by dozens of luxury SUVs and police motorbikes.    A journalism student in Korea commented:  “He climbed into a tiny car like a cat going for a small cozy space.  It’s humbling and at the same time respectful."  The Pope certainly shows us what humility is all about.
Today’s Gospel of the Canaanite women who asked Jesus to heal her daughter is a story of faith and humility.  The woman shows her humility when she says:  “Have pity on me Lord, Son of David.”  She remains persistent when Jesus tells her that he was only sent to the people of Israel.   
I wonder what we would have done if we were in the shoes of the Canaanite woman.  We might have given up when the disciples tried to send us away.  And we certainly would have been insulted when Jesus told us that he was sent to Israel, not to us.  Would we still have the faith, the persistence, and the humility to continue to press Jesus by saying:  “Lord, help me”?  And then when Jesus says that it isn’t right to take the food of the children and give it to the dogs, surely this would have caused us to give up on this Jesus.
But the Canaanite woman continued to persist and Jesus rewarded her by healing her daughter.  Are we willing to do the same?  Or do we give up when our initial prayers aren’t answered?  Do we have too much pride to ask Jesus again and again when we need help?

A week ago, on Friday, I went to the Reds game.  After the game, they recognized the members of the Reds hall of fame who were there for the induction ceremony.  It was interesting and a little humbling to watch these men, formerly great baseball players, walk onto the field.  Two of them, Lee May and Jim O’Toole, walked with canes.  Dave Parker looked weak due to his Parkinson’s.  Several others limped as they took their positions on the field.  I can remember all of these men when they played during their prime.  I remember them as great athletes and it was difficult to see them getting old.

Then they honored Bernie Stowe who was the equipment manager during the years when all of these guys played.  They showed a short video about Bernie and his sixty seven years as equipment manager.  As equipment manager, Bernie made sure that the player’s uniforms were clean and that they had all of the things necessary, such as bats and gloves, to play baseball.  Effectively, he was in the background serving the players so that they could look good in the limelight.  When he was introduced, all of the players came up to Bernie and welcomed him.  Jonny Bench was crying. 

Very seldom does someone who is in the background serving others get recognized.  I commend the Reds for doing this.  I don’t know Bernie Stowe, but, based upon his job, serving others, I would expect him to be a humble man who didn’t want to draw attention to himself.  In fact, he seemed rather embarrassed when he was honored.  For me, it was a lesson in humility.   Most of us can’t expect to be recognized for our humility in this life.  But, at judgment time, God will surely take note of our humility or lack thereof.

A strong faith requires humility.  But, our pride stands in the way.  We have to let go and let God.  We have to decide that He is in control and consult him on our key day to day decisions.   That is, we seek his guidance in all things.  As Jesus told us, we need to have the faith of little children to enter the kingdom of heaven.  We need to find humility like that of Bernie Stowe,  the Canaanite woman, and Pope Francis.
Humility seems to be rare today in our world of selfies and reality TV.  We want to think that we have all the answers.  And especially as men, we want to believe that we can handle anything that the world throws at us. 

Now, this is a good ideal for us, but it just isn’t realistic.  The devil has too many tricks up his sleeve for us.  And he knows all of our weaknesses.  It may be pride, or power, or sex, or money or some combination of the above.  And he’ll tempt us at our lowest moment.  Then he’ll try to convince us, just like he did Jesus, that we’ll be better off if we follow him and that no one will know and no one will be hurt.  We’ve all been there.

When I have a tough decision to make, do I turn to the Lord for guidance?  And do I listen for His advice or do I tell Him what I want to have happen?

When I have done something wrong, do I admit that I have done wrong or do I rationalize my behavior?  And, then, do I confess my sins to a priest?   

Do I follow the teachings of Jesus’ Church?  Do I follow all of them or just some? 

These questions reflect a continual battle in each of us of humility versus pride.  If we can humbly submit to Christ and say “Lord, help me” like the Canaanite woman, our faith will be vibrant and our eternal happiness secure.