Monday, September 3, 2012

Gospel text for Sunday 9 September 2012

Mark 7:24-37
Jesus set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." But she answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." Then he said to her, "For saying that, you may go-- the demon has left your daughter." So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, "He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."

When I hear Jesus’ words to the Syrophoenician mother who is begging Jesus to heal her daughter, “Let the children be fed first. It is not fair to take the children’s food and feed it to the dogs,” my first impulse is to attack him, hands on hips shouting, “What do you mean calling us dogs? Just because we aren’t Jews doesn’t mean we’re not people! I thought you were a man of God. Well, if your God is only a God for Jews than I don’t want anything to do with you or your God. Harrumph!!” And we all know where that would have gotten me and my daughter – nowhere!

But the Syrophoenician mother has something lacking in my defensive attitude. Humility. Rather than taking offense at Jesus’ dismissive attitude toward non-Jews, she willingly accepts a lesser place under the table with the dogs. From this position of submission the mother implores Jesus once more to allow her daughter to taste even the left-overs, the crumbs that the Jews would not eat from the floor.   When the Syrophoenician mother came to Jesus “and bowed down at his feet,” she did so not only with her body but also with her heart. This is true humility.

But it is more complicated than this. In order for this mother to come to Jesus she had much to overcome.  As a woman and a Gentile she was doubly unclean. And having a demon possessed daughter only made matters worse. In addition to humility, this mother who bowed down at Jesus’ feet must have had amazing courage. Courage and humility, two sides of one coin.

t takes much courage to know our smallness and nonetheless dare to present ourselves to God. And it is in the very knowing and embracing of our smallness that we humbly present ourselves to God, willing to eat the crumbs from beneath the table, as it were. I believe the blend of courage and humility is irresistible to God. It reveals an interior strength and purposefulness that is in the very image and likeness of God. And as we lay claim to our likeness to God, so are we healed. No wonder the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter was healed without Jesus even lifting a finger!

 Reflecting on his life, I believe Neil Armstrong embodied the qualities of courage and humility, and that his words speak of the place of humankind in God’s creation. “I put up my thumb and blotted out the planet Earth.”