Scripture Reflections – Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Is 56: 1, 6-7; Rom 11:13-15, 29-32;  Mt 15: 21 -28

2oth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”   It comes as a shock at first to read these words coming out of the mouth of Jesus.  Especially when one considers the context: He says these words in response to a woman who is pleading with him to heal her daughter.  His reason for refusing: She’s not a Jew.

What were the evangelists thinking to include a story like this?  And it’s not just Matthew – Mark has the story also (Mk &:24-30).  My goodness – weren’t there some kind of spin doctors who could’ve quietly edited this story out?

There are a couple of possible explanations.  Some interpret the story as a test of faith – Jesus wanted to make sure this woman really believed.   I don’t buy that one because 1)Why would Jesus need to do this? and 2) A God who “tests” human beings by putting them through any number of masochistic trials would be a rather miserable excuse for a deity.

So, how about this – Maybe the early Church was trying to send us a message?  This is a story about a mother with a sick child who refuses to take no for an answer.  In the best rabbinical tradition (something Jesus would have respected)  she takes his words and turns them right around -“Lord, even the dogs eat the scraps that fall of the table”.   And in that moment, perhaps because of the sharp reparte – Jesus changes his mind.   He sees beyond the parameters of his mission to Israel and catches a glimpse of the common humanity that unites him and the woman.  And the woman’s request is granted.

What would a Church look like that,  while being faithful to its’ mission to the “new Israel”, listened this intently to those beyond that mission field?  A Church that took the needs and witness of women this seriously?   A Church that, when faced with undeniable evidence that the Holy Spirit was leading into new territory, simply followed?  A Church that recognized the needs for healing that were right in front of it as its’ number one priority?

Do you think that the world might catch a clearer glimpse of Christ in such a community?

Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)

(To purchase my book length reflections on the Scripture – and the Church – go to www.twentythirdpublications.com)

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