Word Alive: Silent treatment

Clay Imoo

August 14, 2020
Detail of a manuscript illustration depicting Jesus and the Canaanite woman, by Ilyas Basim Khuri Bazzi Rahib, from Walters manuscript W.592. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Silent treatment

A reflection for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

by Clay Imoo

 
I really dislike receiving the “silent treatment”.
It’s frustrating.  It can be maddening.  And it’s seemingly disrespectful.
My lovely wife, Gail, and I just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary last month in early July.  We had grand plans to go to Rome to celebrate, but the world had other plans for us.  We’ve been together since 1989 (high school sweethearts), and Gail was the one who introduced me to Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church (I received the Sacraments of Initiation at Easter 1993).  We are blessed to have our health, loving family and friends, jobs that we love, three amazing children, and of course, each other.
But things aren’t always perfect.  Like any married couple, we don’t always agree.  And we don’t always express ourselves articulately.  Sometimes our disagreements culminate in a bit of silent treatment.  Going both ways.
On the occasions when it’s Gail giving the treatment to me, I’m never quite sure how to react.  I think  to myself that maybe she simply didn’t hear me.  Or perhaps she’s ignoring me. Or maybe – just maybe - she’s deliberately taking some time to think about what she is going to say or do next.
We know that Jesus often thought, spoke, and acted deliberately, intentionally, and purposefully.  When the Canaanite woman approached him with the news that her daughter was possessed by a demon, he didn’t answer her right away. Perhaps he was trying to think of what to say.  After all, he was in the region of Tyre and Sidon, thus outside the Jewish territory.  He had to have known that he was going to encounter people of all types.
Jesus did not send the woman away, even after his disciples told him to.  Perhaps it was this refusal to dismiss her that gave the woman hope.  She persisted (more on that later) and even knelt before him, paying him homage.  But again he didn’t offer immediate help, instead referring to the fact that it wasn’t right to take children’s food and throw it to the dogs.
Undeterred, the woman replied that even dogs eat the scraps that fall from the master’s table.  This woman sure was gutsy!  Seeing her great faith and persistence, Jesus praised the woman for her faith and healed her daughter.
I can learn a lot about perseverance and persistence from the Canaanite woman.  She knew that she was an “outsider”, and she was likely intimidated to approach Jesus (who was surrounded by his disciples).  But her faith was greater than her fear.  She continued to ask for Jesus’ help, even when he didn’t answer her or when he seemed to put priority on healing others.  Instead of giving up, she continued to persist.  And in the end, it paid off.
One area of my life I can show more persistence in is my prayer life.  I can become very impatient with God, and I sometimes selfishly expect immediate answers from Him.  This was very evident to me when I failed my professional accounting exams back in the late 90s.  After working for a prestigious accounting firm for four years, I squandered my chance to earn a professional accounting designation.  I was understandably very confused and uncertain as to what my future would hold.
I wanted God to fix things.  Right then and there.
The firm ended up letting go of every student who failed their exams…except me.  They moved me into Human Resources where I was able to build my management skills, communication skills, facilitation skills, and public speaking skills.  Three years later, upon returning from World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, I started working for the Archdiocese of Vancouver, and I’ve been there for the past 18 years.
It took me a while to get there, but ultimately I had to have faith that things would work out for me on God’s time, and not mine. That it would be His will, and not mine.  It was a good test of my obedience, patience, and persistence.  And my prayer life.
It’s hard to be obedient and to trust God’s will and His plan for us.  But just like the Canaanite woman, we must persist and have faith.
Even if we’re initially met with the silent treatment.

The readings for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, are
Isaiah 56:1, 6-7
Romans 11:13-15, 29-32
Matthew 15:21-28


Clay Imoo is a speaker, YouTuber, writer, musician, and bowler. He is married to his lovely wife, Gail, and together they have three awesome children (Sean, Jacob, and Kayla). They live in Richmond and are parishioners of St. Paul Parish. Clay has worked for the Archdiocese of Vancouver for the past 18 years, and he currently serves as an Associate Director for the Ministries and Outreach Office. When not doing ministry, Clay enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, playing sports, playing nap time, writing Canucks parody songs, and making cheesy YouTube videos.
 
 

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