In this Sunday's gospel (Matthew 15:21-28), Jesus meets a Canaanite woman, a moving yet initially troubling encounter in which Jesus seems terribly out of character. This poor woman is desperate: her daughter is tormented by a demon (any of you parents: imagine if this situation were yours, seriously). And, Jesus seems to ignore or dismiss her-or, at least, to play hard to get! The woman recognizes in him the possibility of liberation. But, to her plea, "Have mercy on me", Jesus "did not answer at all". What? Is this Jesus? And, in response to the disciples' annoyance with her, Jesus seems to distance himself further: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." What? Is this Jesus? Why then has Jesus ventured into the territory of persons who are not on His "to-do" list? Wrong turn?
I would venture to say that Jesus is deliberately "out of character". Jesus only seems to adopt the legalistic perspective of some of His Jewish brethren. He, in fact, does not, for it is contrary to His mission. The Jews are the chosen people and will always remain so. The second reading (Romans 11:13-15, 29-32) reiterates this: "The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." But, as Psalm 145:10 so beautifully states, "The LORD is loving to everyone and his compassion is over all his work." Contrary to appearance, Jesus is encountering this woman, awakening in her a greater desire. In fact, Jesus is moved by her desire: "Woman, great is your faith!"
Jesus likes to awaken in us a greater desire, for it enlarges the heart, making more room for him and his gifts. The challenges in our lives are an invitation to greater desire. And, when, in the midst of them, Jesus seems distant, he is actually attracting us more deeply to himself and to one another.
Yours in Christ,
From the desk of the Rector