Upon reading today’s Gospel, one could find Jesus’ conversation with the Canaanite women to be a bit harsh or even demeaning. It might seem a little less strange if we really knew Jesus better. You see when Jesus met someone, he saw the whole person, beyond the outward appearance. He understood the person’s character and personality; the emotional, spiritual, intellectual, qualities and the virtues of faith, hope, love, perseverance, etc. Instantaneously, Jesus knew the Samaritan woman begging for help in this way.
We are aware of this ability of Christ from the New Testament when often times he dealt with people, especially his critics and adversaries. We can read for example: “Jesus saw their faith.” Mt 9:2 and “Jesus knew what they were thinking and said why do you harbor evil thoughts.” Mt 9:4 Or again,“He was deeply grieved that they had closed their minds against him.” Mk3:5 and “Jesus was aware of all that would happen to him.” Jn 18:4
Here is what I think happened when he met the Canaanite woman calling out for help. As Lord, he was really well aware of her anguish, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” He had no question about the sincerity of her faith, “O woman, great is your faith!” He understood and admired her quick repartee, “ …even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” He was intrigued by her perseverance, knowing she was not going to give up until he cured her daughter. “Let it be done for you as you wish.” All along, he definitely wanted to heal her daughter and knew he would.
However, during this interchange, he also knew the reaction of his disciples: “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” With such a reaction, I wonder if Jesus didn’t think this was a wonderful opportunity to teach his disciples a lesson. It’s hard to say whether they got the message. But it would be a shame if we missed it.
When someone approaches us looking for help, do we take the time to engage in a brief conversation trying to understand who the person is, for what they are in need and why they singled us out? None of us are Jesus, so we won’t automatically understand the person who has approached us. It takes a bit of time and interest to get some idea of the answers to these questions. But in turn, it could make a world of difference in the way we respond.
Unfortunately, owing to my lack of patience, my usual response is to automatically presume I know the answers and write people off according to my prejudices. After reading this Gospel, let us hope the lesson Jesus was teaching his disciples will not be lost on any of us.
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