Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.”
He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Jesus seems to rely upon his culture’s prejudice towards the Canaanites, as he initially dismisses the woman’s entreaty. He then recognizes the mistake of his cultural inheritance as the woman protests to be recognized as a fellow child of God. Jesus subsequently transcends his culture and grows in his understanding of the breadth of love he is called to offer.
We certainly dismiss some people outside of our “tribe” without hearing them. Would you agree? Can we adopt the humility of Jesus to recognize when our opinions are faulty? Can we grow in compassion? I never tire of contemplating this passage using Ignatian prayer of the imagination. Considering a Jesus who had to grow into his great love allows me to aspire to a more mature and loving version of myself. Have you tried contemplating a Jesus not yet fully formed as the one we’re accustomed to having presented to us?
—Michael Coffey is the Executive Director of Casa Romero Renewal Center, an Ignatian, urban, bilingual spirituality center in the central city of Milwaukee.
Although unrecorded, Jesus spent most of his life as a work in progress, which is where we spend our entire lives. Keeping this in mind may lend new power to the Anima Christi prayer that Ignatius includes in the Spiritual Exercises. (This is a contemporary rewording of the prayer by David Fleming, S.J.)
Jesus, may all that is you flow into me.
May your body and blood be my food and drink.
May your passion and death be my strength and life.
Jesus, with you by my side, enough has been given.
May the shelter I seek be the shadow your cross.
Let me not run from the love which you offer,
But hold me safe from the forces of evil.
—Michael Coffey, including a contemporary rewording of the Anima Christi written by David Fleming, S