The Canaanite Woman: Insistent Faith and Religious Life
Br Simeon Banda FSS – As I am writing this article, I am meditating on the Canaanite woman, who seeks out the Son of David to have mercy on her daughter victimised by sickness. Thus Jesus enters her territory.
Do we take advantage of conversion when Jesus enters our territories, as the Canaanite woman, a Gentile, did?
Jesus seems to harshly say no to her petition because there is no need to waste the food of the children (Jews) to dogs (Gentiles). She knows the historical privilege of the People of the Covenant but she insists that those of the uncovenanted remain. It is her insistent faith that Jesus rewards.
SA Marist Brothers in Malawi
When I look at the young men from the Southern Africa province of the Marist Brothers who have come to the postulate in Malawi, where I now serve, I say to myself that Jesus is present in Southern Africa.
Faith must be criterion number one for anyone aspiring to the religious life. Jesus will test them to see if they are serious in their search for the consecrated life.
Many people nowadays say that vocations to the consecrated life are not a numbers game. I sometimes agree with them, going by the rate of departure of indispensable Brothers in my sector.
What really matters in any vocation in the Church today is the clear motivation to work for the Kingdom of God, to go to the other gentile territories where people are desperately seeking the mercy of Jesus, the Messiah.
Any egocentric privilege loses its place here.
Some Come Just for the University Degree
But how many of us came to the consecrated life — or diocesan priesthood, for that matter — just to get a university degree and leave soon after?
These young men stay with us for one year, and it is easy to see who is accepting formation and who is not responding well. But we offer equal opportunities to all.
In my culture, no man will be given a wife when he does not show any sense of taking care of someone. I say to myself that the religious life too is precious and ought not to be offered at a cheap price to anyone who shows no signs of being serious about it.
The Canaanite woman passed the test of faith and her request was rewarded. Likewise, young men have to prove themselves worthy of such a radical way of life, with faith at the very centre.
Possible deceptions must be scrutinised by the vocation directors. Vocation directors do great work but sometimes they fail.
Motivations Must Be Clarified
In Africa, the vocations are there but the applicant’s motivation has to be clarified. Young men who apply to enter the religious life must be followed up for a long time — or we will have false vocations that disappoint us.
Jesus calls out to us: “Follow me!” But at times, it seems, we ask Jesus to follow our will and not his.
Let Jesus remain our centre of focus in our vocation journey and we shall be authentic portraits of the Marist founder St Marcellin Champagnat who was always driven by faith.