Not a Word
Gospel Reflection for 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Matthew 15:21-28
“Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.”
How often have you prayed and not heard a word? When did you cry out for God and it didn’t seem like anyone was listening? Personally, I get flustered and confused when I don’t hear God’s voice. I have grown in appreciation of Words of Affirmation after learning it is my primary love language. I can interpret a lack of words as a lack of love.
At the lake this week, I’m diving into a book that has been on my reading list for years. It’s called Jesus, the Greatest Therapist Who Ever Lived. I am inspired by the Good Counselor in my work as a marriage and family counselor and comforted by Him in my own faith journey.
Counselors spend a lot of time in school learning about the importance of silence in the therapy room and spending hours practicing utilizing silence as a technique in practicum sessions. Silence does not automatically mean that one is being passive aggressive and giving someone the “silent treatment.”
A silent listener provides space for the speaker. We have most definitely lost the art of listening in a society that is impatient and self-involved. When someone else is speaking, we often are thinking about what we are going to say next instead of listening to what is being said in the here-and-now.
Periods of silence allow someone a chance to think, to process, and to answer. In this particular gospel, commentaries suggest that Jesus was also utilizing the silence to process what was happening in the interaction. He not only internally processed with silence, but also externally processed as he said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. “This statement did not deter the Canaanite woman (who was a Gentile). Instead, she answered, “Lord, help me.” She was not afraid to be identified as a lost sheep. When she admitted to being lost, she was able to be found.
In John 10:27, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
Jesus is well-known for his attentiveness to others. He hears, knows, and understands. At the right time, he asks, pursues, and challenges. He sets boundaries. In therapy sessions, therapists model boundary setting for clients. In Christ’s earthly ministry, he was a model for all of us. While we are always hurry to get to the points and move along, Christ always had time for those he encountered. He knows our hearts and sees our faith even when we may not.
Prayer is communication with the lover of our souls. Like any other communication, it is essential to a relationship. Communication includes speaking and listening. In actuality, it doesn’t even have to be verbal at all. Most of our communication is nonverbal. Communicating with others helps us to know one another. Knowing another helps us to grow in love.
When Jesus did not respond with a word, He certainly responded with a facial expression or posture. St Teresa of Calcutta speaks of how her prayer often included Jesus looking at her and her looking back at Him. When you imagine Jesus looking at you, what do you see? Put yourself in this Gospel story as someone pleading for help. How does the silence impact you?
Does silence lead you to engage deeper and become more persistent? Or, does silence disappoint you and lead you elsewhere? How great is your faith?