Sunday, August 20, 2023

The Difference Between “Firmness” and “Rigidity”

In his Angelus address for August 20, Pope Francis used the Gospel example of Jesus healing the daughter of the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28) as an opportunity to distinguish between the virtue of firmness and the anxiety-driven, dysfunctional attitude of rigidity. This is most illuminating, especially because it pertains to practical judgments about how we live in relation to others, how we regard the person in front of us and attend to his or her real needs, how we are challenged to love the person beyond our own preconceived projects. 

“This is what God is like: he is love, and the one who loves does not remain rigid. Yes, he or she stands firm, but not rigid, they do not remain rigid in their own positions, but allow themselves to be moved and touched. He or she knows how to change their plans. Love is creative. And we Christians who want to imitate Christ, we are invited to be open to change. How good it would do our relationships, as well as our lives of faith, if we were to be docile, to truly pay attention, to be moved in the name of compassion and the good of others….

“The docility to change. Hearts docile to change….

“We can ask ourselves a few questions… For example: Am I capable of changing opinion? Do I know how to be understanding and do I know how to be compassionate, or do I remain rigid in my position? Is there some rigidity in my heart? Which is not firmness: rigidity is awful, firmness is good.”

Firmness is good. The truth revealed by God through Jesus Christ has a firm hold on those who trust in Him. The truth doesn’t need us to build walls around it or be constrained by our narrow-minded fears and insecurities. Rather, firmness of truth flourishes and becomes more fruitful when we are docile to the Spirit of Truth, who changes us and opens our hearts to the creativity of love.