“And Was Made Man”
The Gopels we’ve been reading at Liturgy lately have been about miracle healings, the leper and the blind man most recently. Theyare wonderful stories of restoration and relationships. The leper, once healed of his disease, can go home and live a normal life with family and friends. The blind man, once his vision is restored, can cease begging and enter society as a contributing member. Jesus healed people because he could recognize their plight and was moved by human compassion.
I'm convinced that, for our own spiritual growth, it's most important to reflect on the humanness of Jesus, knowing that he is truly fully human. He is someone like us in every way. As we explore the Gospel we realize that sometimes he had a bad day. That must have been the case when he met the Canaanite woman who we’ll meet in a week or so. In that story, Jesus goes outside his native land. He goes into a pagan territory and that's where He meets the woman.
It’s difficult for us to picture Jesus turning away when someone is pleading with him, "Help me! Help me! Have mercy on me!" But that’s what he did; he didn't even say a word to her. This is not the way we picture Jesus, is it? His disciples complained to him, "Look, she's still shouting at us! Get rid of her!" Then Jesus made that terrible remark, in effect calling her a dog, which was a term that the Jewish people at the time used for those who were not part of their society. But this woman was so extraordinary, she didn't take offense even, but she turned the words of Jesus around in a way that really challenged him. "Look, even the dogs get at least the crumbs from the master's table." With that Jesus, I'm sure, must have broken into a smile and said, "OK, you've outdone me. You've outwitted me." Then he noted how deep her faith was and praised her for that faith, saying, "Yes, your daughter is healed."
If we reflect on the humanness of Jesus, I think, it's much easier for us, to connect with him than if we just think about his divinity. Yes, as the Son of God he could heal in a second. He could change everything. But he's human. So if we're going to gradually become more like him, we're going to have to connect with his humanness and grow and change as he did. That's exactly what happened on that occasion. He changed. He was converted. We may find that difficult to believe, but remember St. Luke said in his Gospel that Jesus “grew in age, wisdom and grace”.
He grew. He developed. He became more profoundly human as he matured. He grew because he was willing to listen, to be open. That may have been difficult. Jesus was born into a culture that had, over the centuries, struggled to maintain its identity. He was part of a religion that decided it had to stick together and reject any kind of intermingling, intermarriage and so on.
Jesus was from that culture, that religion, that time. As a Canaanite, she was also an enemy. Jesus was caught up in that. That's who he was in his humanness. That may be why, at first, he would have nothing to do with this pagan woman. He was fully human like us, and that's why he responded the way he did.
But then, again, he didn't close himself off. He was willing to interact with the woman, listen to what she had to say and take it in. He let it change his mind, change his way of being, change his conviction. His meeting with the Canaanite woman was a tremendous change for Jesus at that moment. It was then that he reached out and praised this woman for her extraordinary faith.
If we reflect on the Gospel and especially on the humanness of Jesus and how he reacts to others, we should discover all kinds of ways to grow and change in our own lives by being open to one another.