One very dear Dominican friend of mine who has since gone to his eternal reward always said to me, “John, we lose brothers in the religious life because of discouragement, keep going despite yourself.” These very wise words always come back to me when I read this passage of the gospel which the church presents to us today. The Canaanite woman was not a follower of Jesus, but she knew only he could save her daughter. She did not follow him in anyway but she trusted him and placed her faith in him. She I am sure grew in knowledge of him and became his disciple. Even though he practically tried to move her on, testing her faith, she insisted on him helping her despite her lack of knowledge of who he really was. St. Teresa of Avila once said that the whole edifice of prayer is founded on humility. Humility is the peaceful acceptance of one’s own radical poverty in life, not money but in general. For humble people God is everything and they are happy from my experience of religious life and living with saints and sinners that the humble among us are happy to accept that they are nothing but weakness. The difference is they don’t carry on about their wretchedness and foolishness but they in a very unworldly way consider themselves and their weakness as a stroke of luck, because God can be even more merciful to them. When I come to pray I can say that the first thing that I experience is not the presence of God, but in fact I experience like so many others my own poverty, my weakness and sins, my faults which are so many and in silence before God I can and mostly do feel unsupported and alone with the reality of myself and my poverty of spirit. Most of us want to run away when these moments come, because we don’t like feeling and acknowledging the fact that before God I am poor and sinful. So when you live a form of religious life where silence and solitude make up parts of your day, you cannot avoid the reality of yourself. Very few of us actually like to sit in silence and think! In it in these moments when our life and our reality is before our own eyes in the presence of God, when we lay bare our nothingness and sin, it is then we get up and run away. We as humans refuse to be poor and weak.
The beauty of life however is found in the moments we do not like to acknowledge. It is when I can look at myself and accept with a strange joy that I am weak that we can discover the mercy and love of God. “Blessed the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of God.”
When we learn to be humble, and persevere in our prayer we discover that nobody owes us anything, that we cannot do anything by our own strength and we learn that we should not be surprised that we have weakness and difficulties and fall constantly through sin. When you can accept your weakness peacefully and place your hope only in God and not yourself, then you find yourself relying more and more on a God who loves us mercifully.
Humble people never become discouraged, because they have given up trusting in themselves and trust only in God and his providence. We must never let ourselves become discouraged over our weakness to pray, or how little we love God or how much we fall through sin. God loves you the way you are, he loves you the way he created you and will always love you, feeling holy is not the way to God, blessed the poor in spirit, blessed are you who are humble, weak and useless. God will strengthen you and give you all you need. Keep going despite yourself! (Matt 15:21-28)