What can change Jesus’ mind?
In Sunday’s gospel in the cure of the Canaanite mother we see Jesus changing his mind, we in this see him implicitly admitting a misconception, and as a result we see Jesus learning more about himself and his mission.
Jesus was a faithful, practicing Jew. He regularly attended the synagogue and was familiar with much of the Old Testament writings, including the Pentateuch, the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel and other prophets, and of course the Psalms. From all of this he knew that his people were awaiting a Messiah, an anointed one who would free them from their servitude to the Romans and their current, Idumaean political rulers. This longed-far anointed one would one day be re-established them as a nation, as a kingdom. Somehow they, as a people, would become the channel of God's life and salvation for all peoples (a light to the gentiles).
In today’s gospel we have Jesus’ initial understanding of the role of the anointed one. He first was to minister and serve the Israelites and then afterwards the non-Jewish peoples. And so Jesus initially refuses to grant the request of the Canaanite woman. The time for ministering to non-Jews had not yet come.
But there is one power that Jesus has to pay attention to, and, as it were, he cannot resist. It is the great faith of the mother. In antithesis I am reminded of Jesus first visit to his native town. Because of the Nazarenes lack of faith he was not able to act very well on their behalf. But here with the Canaanite woman, because of her great faith, he has to reconsider his role and mission and then to act on her behalf.
Last week in one of the weekday Gospels Jesus told his disciples that with their faith they could even move mountains. And in today’s gospel we see Jesus being moved by Canaanite mother’s faith to reassess and refocus the mission given to him by his Father.
Too often I simply take my faith for granted, and I do not appreciate what a great gift it is. This gospel, along with many other Scripture passages, reminds me that it is also a great power is in my life, and it is never to be taken for granted.