Weekday Homily by Fr. Chris Lemieux [St. Michael’s Cathedral] for Thursday February 13, 2014: Today’s Gospel is for all of us a great sign of hope. How so we might ask? It appears in the dialogue between Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman that the Lord’s will is that only the Chosen People of Israel receive the grace, blessing, and healing from God. But this woman of faith does not give up and she appeals to the Lord. Her prayers are answered. Sometimes it’s hard to accept and believe that our prayers are necessary at all, the God of the universe who knows so intimately each and every heart wouldn’t He simply know our needs and desires, and wouldn’t He simply want to grant them? Wouldn’t He simply know the faith and devotion we all have – and simply answer our prayers accordingly? Today there are many people who say “I’m spiritual, but I’m not religious”. Often that can mean very different things. It can mean that one hasn’t been born into a family or raised in a particular faith tradition but that they are open to the grace of God, that they are open to knowing and loving and being closely connected to God. But it can also mean, depending upon who makes this comment that they have been born into a faith tradition and have chosen not to be part of that, because they don’t want to have to follow the rules of morality, or pray intentionally, or believe in things that are discomforting, or love unconditionally, or seek ongoing conversion and ask forgiveness for sins – such as is our faith tradition. Obviously there are degrees of both, and it’s not simply black and white, one or the other but when people say I’m spiritual and not religious and they are motivated in this second way, they are closed off and not open to the gift and grace of God. In today’s Gospel, Jesus provides a challenge to this woman, but to anyone who would say “I’m spiritual, not religious”. To the one who is open and not there yet, they are challenged to deepen their faith, to begin to trust, to be hopeful. To the one who is closed, Jesus know they will walk away, and although that breaks His heart, love and the grace and gift of God must be chosen. While it’s free and most desirable, it can’t be forced, and it can be refused. Today’s Gospel is a sign of hope. No matter who we are, no matter what we think we deserve or don’t deserve; if we have faith, the Lord will receive us. He will challenge us, because it is most important that our intentions for faith and relationship be pure or be purified but if we have faith we will be received no matter what. My brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be open, and more open to what the Lord is offering. Let us give ourselves more generously in our faith and be assured that while we will always be challenged in that faith, the Lord does desire us close to Him. May God bless you.