Saturday, September 5, 2015

Gospel text for Sunday 6 September 2015

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.”

Reflection         I wonder if when Jesus said to the deaf man, “Ephphatha … be open,” I wonder if Jesus was also speaking to himself?  Having just walked away from his heart and mind opening encounter with the Syrophoenician mother, might Jesus have also been coaching himself? “Be thou open, Don’t let there be any boundaries or borders between yourself and others.  Eschew any line of demarcation between humanity and divinity.” 

That last would be the border crossing that got Jesus in the most trouble, acting on behalf of God, incarnating the will and the way of God, teaching, healing and forgiving sin. That is why the religious and political officials had to execute Jesus. It was their job to draw and protect the borders and boundaries of their laws. Today we call it gerrymandering, defining borders or boundaries to establish advantage for a particular group. And Jesus crossed the line. He refused to be bound by social, political or religious borders.

Jesus says, “Ephphatha… be open.” Any boundary or border that diminishes the humanity of another human being is to be transgressed. This is the will and the way of God; to be open to comfort, care for and heal every human being, especially the most vulnerable. The question before us today is, what borders or boundaries must we cross to be open, “Ephphatha…” to be open as was Jesus? What Maginot lines have we drawn imagining we can protect our privilege by keeping others at bay?

When Jesus invites us to “Follow me,” he might well add, “Ephphatha… be open. Put on the hands and feet and skin of God. Dare to cross borders to care for and comfort, teach, heal and forgive the sin of others. Refuse to be bound by borders and boundaries that diminish the humanity of another human being, that diminish the humanity of your true self. 

If you found this post to be meaningful please share by clicking on icons below.  Thank you!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hebrew Testament Text for 30 August 2015

Song of Songs 2.8-13   
The voice of my beloved!
Look, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Look, there he stands
behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
looking through the lattice.
My beloved speaks and says to me:

“Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away.”   

Reflection        Unlike most of the rest of the Bible, nearly seventy-five percent of the words spoken in the Song of Songs are the woman’s voice. This poetic call to love with its references to mountains and hills, a gazelle and a stag, fchanging seasons, verdant vines and fragrant blossoms locates human love in the context of the garden, and associates human love with all that is good in creation.  This offers an alternative view to the longstanding historical interpretation of the woman in the Song (not to mention many other parts of the Bible) as the adulterous, betraying woman who represents Israel’s idolatry or sinful woman, the church, who has lost her way. These interpretations of women have had a far ranging effect particularly as they are promoted in commentaries on the most widely published book in the world, the Bible with more than 5 billion copies printed since 1815.

We live in a time wherein many women are bought, sold, abused and exploited. Across the globe women are discounted, disrespected and held in contempt. The outrageous fact is, in many places the status of women has not much improved in the twenty-six hundred years since the Song of Songs was written. That said, we need to hear the Song of Songs because it reminds us of what love can be. The Song is a finger pointing beyond the edifice of human codes and concepts, interpretations, traditions and doctrines that separate us from the love of God and our neighbor. The Song of Songs is an invitation to acknowledge our deepest desires and longing and accept the invitation to live fully and freely rooted in the commandment to love. 

Of course we can extrapolate from the dramatic poem and offer theological reflections on God’s love of God’s people and Jesus’ love of the Church. But we must be careful “Not to teach human precepts as doctrines,”(Mk 7.8) in other words,  not to ignore God’s commandments and hold onto human tradition.  We must be careful not to slip into dualistic thinking, creating codes and characterizing love as human versus divine.  When one of the scribes asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one;  you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mk 12.28-31) 

When a  scribe asks Jesus  for the singular decisive commandment, Jesus’ non-dualistic response, love God with all your heart AND soul, mind AND strength, And love your neighbor AS your self, refuses to be constrained in a container of singular certainty. Both Jesus and the unknown writer of the Song of Songs shows us what love looks like. Fully human and fully divine, freely given and joyfully received. Amen. 

If you found this post to be meaningful, please share by clicking on the icons below. Thank you.