But he did not answer her a word.
How terrifying. To cry out to the Lord, and get nothing, only silence. On the other hand, how wonderful, that part of the freight loaded onto the Kyrie – the prayer “Lord have mercy” – is the reality of God’s silence.
Psalm 88 is unique among all the Psalms as being the one that offers no hope. All the other Psalms have some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. Not Psalm 88. That could be terrifying, but it’s actually tremendously comforting. Because it lifts up to the level of divine sanction the reality of no hope. After all, Jesus was breathing those Psalms into King David’s pen, breathing them from the cross.
We meditated yesterday that we don’t do the Kyrie, but the Kyrie does us. It has qualities baked into it from the text, and these qualities form our own faith, show us what faith looks like, as opposed to relying on our own wobbly selves. The Kyrie does us. Well, one of things baked into the qualities of faith as expressed in the Kyrie is God’s silence.
This episode teaches us: You can expect God’s silence. God’s silence should not discourage us or make us feel He is not for us. The persistent widow experienced God’s silence as well. It is an aspect of faith none of us can avoid, which is why faith without perseverance and persistence is not faith.
God’s silence is one of the great reasons why people leave the faith. Rooted in understandings of faith where God is not silent, their reality doesn’t live up to their idea – their idol – of “God.” Of course, the “God” often proclaimed through our popular preachers is often more like a Genie than our Lord, something you use to get you what you want. And oh how a steady stream of people will tell you how they were in such and so situation, and they prayed to God, and God answered their prayer way better than what they asked for. Maybe or maybe not, but that misses the point anyways, and very often many people leave these teachings empty, thinking, “Why isn’t God at the ready for me???”
The reality is God is silent, often for long periods of time. We cry out for help for one of our children, for a job, for a situation, and we get nothing. We conclude God is not for us.
This week’s Gospel of the Canaanite woman is a remedy to falling for this error, because we know the end of the story (just as we know the end of the story with the persistent widow.) What is the end of the story? Jesus answers her prayer eventually. And more than that, Jesus calls her faith great. What was great about it? Among other things, she did not give up. Up against God’s silence and then the disciples pushing her away, she continued to pray, “Lord, help me!”
And Jesus eventually answered. Faith will not be denied. That is what faith does. That too is baked into faith. Faith will not be denied. When Christ returns, the ones who continued to pray “Lord, have mercy!” without giving up, will indeed be answered.
But part of faith is expectation of God’s silence. When we come up against it, we should not be discouraged.