I knew all about plants, or so I thought. Then I started reading Brilliant Green, The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence, by Stefano Mancuso and Alessandra (2015). Just reading the book’s title and inside jacket, I learned things that while I had heard, I never really thought about, like plants have been on earth longer than we have. Reading into the book I learned that plants possess fifteen more senses than we do. The following fact that was right in front of me all my life—you can cut plants, sometimes as much as 90% and get this—they don’t die, they keep right on growing. Of course, I knew that the more I cut the grass around my home, the more it grew. I always thought that was more a nuisance than amazing characteristic.
Like learning more about plants that have always been part of my life, I read today’s gospel and I find that even at my ripe old age of 74, I have more to learn. I was taught to follow Jesus, he had all the answers and could point out the way, especially in turbulent and confusing times. I also remember hearing that Jesus had to grow in his understanding of his mission, that Jesus was human and had to develop just like me, but I always assumed that was in the first 30 years of his life before we meet him in the gospels. In today’s gospel selection we see the mature Jesus learning from a Canaanite woman (a marginalized person in Jesus’ time) about his mission and widening his view as to whom he is being sent. The persistent woman seems to be a distraction to Jesus at first. He tells his disciples:
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” MT 15:23)
The Canaanite woman perseveres, and Jesus has a change of heart:
“O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.”
And her daughter was healed from that hour. (MT 15:28)
I know I can take this passage to suggest that I must hound God in prayer for what I want, but I can also see that even Jesus had to learn as he grew. Thank you, God for Matthew who told the story the way it actually happened, not the way he may have wanted it to play out. Help me today to continue to grow and to tell my story like it is and not like I might want it to seem.
Dan O’Donnell is a Passionist Partner and a longtime friend of the Passionists. He lives in Chicago.