Cardinal Homily

The Silence of God, His Call to Intimacy

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week XX-A, 20 August 2017
Isaiah 56:1,6-7//Romans 11:13-15,29-32//Matthew 15:21-28
            We have reflected last Sunday that God comes and speaks to us in silence.  Silence for most of us is a struggle, a difficulty because we are so used to noise and other cacophony of sounds around us.  Sometimes, the silence of God can be disturbing as if God does not care at all to our pleas or has forsaken us despite our cries for help like in today’s gospel.
            At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!  My daughter  is tormented by a demon.”  But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.  Jesus’ disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”  He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”(Mt.15:21-24)
            But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.
            When we read the Psalms or the Book of Job where God was totally silent with men crying out to Him in distress, we find that the silence of God is actually an invitation to intimacy with Him.  In the Book of Song of Songs, God is like a lover “seducing” us to come closer to Him, to be engaged with Him like what Jesus did with the Canaanite woman in our Gospel today.  Jesus was silent to the cry of the woman because He was just passing there at Tyre and Sidon shortly before going back to Jerusalem to fulfill His mission.  He did not say a word in answer to her because His concern – mission – was with the “lost sheep of Israel.”  However, her being a pagan did not mean Jesus was indifferent to her; in fact, Jesus was putting her to a test to have more faith in Him much like when He let the disciples cross the lake ahead of Him last week.  He had already sensed faith in the Canaanite woman who addressed Him as “Lord, Son of David.”  This faith in Jesus would be evidently clearer when she knelt before Him saying, “Lord, please help me.”(Mt.15:25)
            It was at this part when the Canaanite woman expressed her complete faith and hope in Jesus by making Him known that she understood well the Divine Plan:  that the “bread” or salvation in the Christ is meant first for the “children” of Israel and for the meantime, they pagans referred as“dogs” by the Jews then are content with the “scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”  That early on, the Canaanite woman already had that firm faith of the coming days when all peoples, Jews and non-Jews alike would all gather together sharing a meal in the house of God which Isaiah prophesized in the first reading today.  Jesus was so impressed with her faith, exclaiming, “O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish.”  And her daughter was healed from that hour.(Mt.15:28)
            As we have reflected last Sunday, faith like love is an encounter.  In every encounter in faith with Him, Jesus wants us to be more engaged with and in Him.  To be engaged with Him in faith is like to wrestle with God like Jacob in the Old Testament (Gen.32:23-33).  See how the Canaanite woman engaged Jesus in a conversation; it was like a “wrestling” so swift that the pagan woman “swept” the Lord off the floor to experience His deep intimacy and salvation.  That is the beauty of wrestling, very close to ground and a full-contact sport.  In a sense, it is intimate or close.  We have a beautiful Tagalog word for intimacy which is “matalik” like “matalik na kaibigan” or best friend.  Its root is “talik” that literally means “malalim” or deep.  Friends have reached that deep level in their relationships like they are brothers and sisters, a family.  Talik is also the word we use for sexual intercourse of husband and wife because they enter into very deep level of love and respect for each other, willing to give their total self to each other without shame.  Whether in English or Filipino, intimacy and “talik” both connote deep faith and love that call for more actions than words.  The Canaanite woman showed her deep faith in a few words with Jesus as she did Him homage during their encounter in Tyre and Sidon.  Jesus at first did not say a word to her pleading because He was silently working for the people, visiting and healing them.  Most often, God is silent with us because He is busy showing us His love and fidelity that we always ignore.  Whenever God does not say a word to our cries for help, let us always remember St. Paul’s assurance that “God’s gift and call are permanent and irrevocable.”(Rom.11:29)  God never takes back from us His blessings as He pours more blessings upon us.
            Last Friday I officiated in the funeral of one of the 34 people killed in our province last Monday night and Tuesday, the single deadliest day in the anti-drug operations by the police.  Almost 80 people including a 17 year-old student have been killed this week from a new wave oftokhang blitzkrieg by the police in Metro Manila and Bulacan.  Like the disciples, I have been asking Jesus to hear our prayers to stop these senseless killings going on for more than a year but, He does not seem to say a word to our pleas.  Maybe the Lord in His silence is inviting us to be engaged with Him anew in an intimate relationship with Him in finding ways to address the drug problem as a whole.  Not with just reactions but concrete actions that lead to conversion and mercy.  We can start in silently reaching out to the families of those killed.  We reach out in silence also to those into drugs and most especially, to those behind these killings too.  Be a silent blessing to others. 
Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II,
Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista,
Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin,
Sta. Maria, Bulacan