Jesus Encounters the Woman

Based on Proper 19

In this week’s Gospel reading, Jesus has his encounter with the Syro-phonecian woman. She asks for her daughter to be healed. Jesus initially refuses and insults her. But the woman entreats him. Jesus, then moved by her directness, heals her daughter. In a short passage we see our Lord move from being provincial to magnanimity.

It’s not easy to be magnanimous. It requires regular reflection and spiritual discipline. Even those who love us can utter words that can seem cruel and contemptuous. We offer ultimatums, we misunderstand intentions, we have suspicions. In the midst of a fight, magnanimity in these cases seems delusional.

But magnanimity is one of the virtues Christ embodies. It means, sometimes, managing our own anger; interpreting the best (or misinterpreting the best) in other people. We let people make mistakes, and we create an opening of trust that can become an anchor for the future. It means we reject revenge and manage the internal life that would render other people small and inconsequential.

It takes practice. Sometimes it hurts as much as a hard workout – because our natural response to being rejected or hurt is to respond with the same. It requires some bravery. And as one Greek philosopher said, it requires we endure tactlessness with mildness.

As Christ was, let us have the inner strength to be generous to the defeated and broken. The only expense is our own pusillanimity. Perhaps it is the secret of our spiritual healing. It is worth the price.

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