His Eminence Metropolitan Panteleimon of Antinoes with Fr. Epifanios Hadjiyangkou in a village of Ghana (W. Africa).
In today’s Holy Gospel our beloved Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ meets with a gentile woman near the region of Tyre and Sidon. The woman was a Greek living in Canaan. She had a daughter which was “severely demon-possessed”. In her distress of finding a way to heal her daughter, she took the path and climbed the mountains of that region just with the taught, that she might meet with the great Teacher of Israel, whose fame travelled around the country. This great Rabbi can heal all infirmities of men! He is the solution, the woman said, of my family’s problems.
And behold, seeing Christ from a distance, she cried out to Him: “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David!” Have mercy on me and show compassion, for my daughter is suffering not from any sickness of the flesh, but from spiritual illness. She has been possessed by a demon!
But Jesus does not give any attention to her words. He ignores her completely. At her cry of pain, He does not show any sympathy. In addition to this unusual behaviour of Jesus, when the Apostles came and urged Him to “send her away, for she cries out after us”, He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matth. l5:24). But the poor woman did not lost her hopes. She insists and came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
Now, we have before us a woman, whose child is spiritual ill. She is crying out to the Creator of the whole Universe to help her. She is crying out to the One, who heals with His command all illnesses. She is kneeling before Him, who all the angelic hosts in Heaven worship. She is crying out for help, and He is doing nothing! And though the woman has enough problems, He says to her, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs” (Matth. l5:26).
Now, what type of answer is this? She is asking desperately for help, and He is insulting her on the top! Is this a type of a joke? Is Jesus truely turning His back on this woman’s request? Is the God of Love not hearing the prayers of this woman. She is not asking anything for her self, she is praying for her daughter’s health. She is asking to deliver her from the power of satan, and to make her a free person. Therefore she does not feel insultated, but insists even more on her request saying, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table” (Matth. l5:27).
Jesus Christ answered, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire” (Matth. l5:28). This is what our Lord wanted to bring out as an example for all generations which will follow. The woman’s faith in Him. If He had just cured the child right from the beginning, then the woman’s faith was not to be shown.
Christ on purpose ignores her, in order to glorify her faithfulness in Him. He does not answer her, in order that she insists on turning to Him. He delays the healing, in order to strengthen her hope in Him. He humbles her in order to teach us her humbleness and that with true humbleness we should approach God.
My beloved friends,
Many times in our personal life, we had found our selves under diffucult situations. We then turned to God for help and assistance. In the hour of depress, we asked God to do this or that for us. And how many times there was just no answer to our prayers?
When we pray to God Almighty, we must always stand before Him with faith. Our prayers cannot be accepted, unless they are addressed with faith and hope in God. When we stand before God to pray, we must humble ourselves before Him. You cannot stand before God with a pride heart or praying disrespectful.
Many ask the question: Can we pray lying down, when we are very tired?
And I ask you: Can you lie down, if you are expecting an important guest? Can you lie down, when the President of the country is before you? Can you lie down, when you are invited to a special dinner? And you all know the answer to these questions. No you cannot lie down.
Speaking to God is more important than anything else in the world. It is essential that when we pray, we must stand before God’s presence with the proper manner. We must also approach him with true faith, without any doubts. If we doubt, then are prayers are not heard. Doubts are the obstacles to our prayers. Christ our Lord and Saviour assured us saying, that “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matth. 2l:2l-22), and again He says, “For assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matth. l7:20).
My beloved friends,
Let us remove from our hearts all doubts. Let us approach Christ with faith. Let us stand before Him, as the Canaan woman stood, with humbleness, faith and hope that our prayers will be heard. Let us pray to God, not only when we need something from Him, but let us practice the virtue of prayer daily in our homes, shops and even when we travel. Finally let us allow God’s Will to take up the important role in our life, and not our own selfish human will.
By His Eminence Metropolitan Panteleimon of Antinoes