Sunday, August 17, 2014

Cats and Jesus?

Dominic (formerly Oreo)
Isaiah 56:1, 6-7
Psalm 67:2, 3, 5, 6, 8
Romans 11:13-15, 29-32
Matthew 15:21-28

So yesterday I became an official cat owner – true story. I’ve always loved animals, especially cats, and I’ve wanted a cat for years but I wasn’t able to because of restriction at the seminary and my previous pastors’ lack of openness to a loveable little pet in the rectory. So when I got here and figured that I’d be living alone, I started looking only at adoption agencies for a cute kitty or two. I found two that I liked and yesterday I went to Petsmart to start the adoption process.

Being adopted myself, I know there is all sorts of paperwork and stuff to do, so I figured they would start the process then and I’d go back later in the week to actually take the animals home. But surprise, surprise, when I asked about later in the week the lady helping me said, “Oh no, you can take them home with you right now.” “Oh…ok…” was my semi-stunned response and I immediately went to get a buggy to start shopping for everything necessary to make kittens happy. I didn’t get a big carrier because they suggested one that was available online, so I settled for the boxes they had there to transport my two adorable kittens home.

When they put the cats in the box they were like two little angels. The boxes were totally closed but had holes to see and get air and such and for the five or so minutes they were in the store they just quietly sat there. When I got them into the car for the ride home, the story quickly changed. Dominic started meowing. Then meowing loudly. Then howling. Then scratching at the box trying to tear his way out. The further along we went, the louder and more upset he got. And the whole time I was sitting there trying to console this poor cat stuck in a box. I spoke as gently as I could saying, “It’s okay. Only 30 more minutes…” as if the could would understand the logic of such a statement. And yet I tried. As I was driving along trying to console this cat that was now crying unceasingly, and the other cat, Gemma, who had joined in on the fun, I laughed and thought to myself that maybe I should have tried what Jesus in the Gospel today and not respond at all. But I didn’t. I kept doing my best to help the cat, when in reality there was absolutely nothing I could because in the end he was still in the box and needed to stay there.

As I was stressing about this cat situation it hit me – how often am I like that cat in the box? How many times in my life have I felt completely trapped by something – illness, broken relationships, struggles at home, work, or school. How many times have we all felt some trial that we wanted to be over with an quickly? And in the midst of it all what do we do? We keep on crying out like the woman in the gospel today – Lord, help me! That’s what we’re supposed to do; we’re supposed to persist in our prayer.

Gemma (formerly Padmé)
When we were driving home yesterday there was nobody in the world that wanted that cat out of that box more than I did and the same is true of God with us in our trials, in those boxes we experience in this life. God doesn’t want us to suffer. He doesn’t enjoy watching us struggling and listening to us cry out over and over. And yet He permits it to happen for some particular reason – usually that we might grow in some aspect of our faith. That’s why Jesus ignores the Canaanite woman in the Gospel today. It wasn’t because He didn’t hear here. It wasn’t because He didn’t want to help her. He avoided speaking to her for a moment because He is the God who knows our hearts and He knew that in her heart there was much more faith than she expressed in that initial request to save her daughter. Christ saw in her a great faith that He wanted to pull forth from her heart to show her what was present there and to show her that God is faithful is we persevere in prayer. It wasn’t for Him that He remained quiet but for her and the same is true of us today. When we continue in the boxes in our life, we cry out over and again and so often the response is silence, nothing, not even an acknowledgement. We can think that God isn’t listening but He is. And as He is listening to our cry, He is also looking into our hearts to pull forth from us greater faith in Him. It is up to us to persist because at some point, He is going to open that box and free us.

When I finally got home I brought the boxed up cats into my room and closed the doors, as the agency suggested to give them time to transition. I opened the boxes and Gemma ran under the bed to find her safe place. Dominic, however, turned around, walked over to me and sat on my feet. I moved over a few steps and he walked over and sat on my feet. I did it a couple of more times and he continued to do the same. And I think that is what God really wants of us. He wants us always to come and sit at His feet, but sometimes it takes a little difficult in this life to bring us there. Sometimes it takes a box for God to pull faith from our hearts. So let us ask for the grace today to persevere in prayer and keep crying out to the God who created us, the God who saved us, and the God who will free us from all evil in this life and bring us rejoicing to the next.