Wednesday 3rd August 2011 Mass and Reflections

Scripture readings for the Mass today are here

Gospel Matthew 15 :21-28
At that time Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!
My daughter is tormented by a demon.”

But he did not say a word in answer to her.

His disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”

He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”

She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.”

Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.”

And her daughter was healed from that hour.

A Few Crumbs for Reflection

This woman certainly knew about crumbs and scraps  !
I suppose at our lowest ebb we can all feel like dogs curled up and whining underneath the table but the value of this parable is that this woman with no name had the courage to persist and not take no for an answer. 
The lesson of humility combined with hope and a tiny scrap of cheek shines through this story.

It's a constant reminder that it is often the people with the least in life that have the greatest hope and faith in God.
Like Oscar Wilde said, " All of us are in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars."
When life's demons get in our way and threaten our very sanity we can rail and rant : and sometimes on days like these all we can say is,  "Lord, Help Me."

God even listens to our whines and sometimes says do you want cheese with that ?!!  

The music here tries to engage with the multitude of meanings this parable evokes.

I was relieved to read that Fr. Ron Rolheiser finds this a difficult passage. These are his words : Certainly food for thought here !

"I find this passage difficult : The one about Jesus walking on the border of Samaria and meeting a Phoenician woman, who is walking on the edge of her country, ethnicity, gender and religion, seeking a miracle.

“Although not a Jew, she addressed him by his Jewish identity: ‘Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me. Heal my daughter.’ He gave a conservative reply, saying it was not fair ‘to take the bread of the Hebrew children and give it to the dogs.’ 

So she addressed him by his universal identity, saying ‘Adonai, even the dogs eat crumbs that fall from children’s tables.’”

Father Ron likened that to a leader of Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) who had just led 20 people through nine months of preparation for baptism. A woman comes and asks, “Are you an RCIA leader?” and says, “I’d like to be baptized.”

“Others took the full program. It’s not fair for her to jump in at the last moment. However, if she asks, ‘Are you a Christian who believes in the universal God, and in grace and salvation through Jesus,’ it’s clear she is ready to be baptized.”

Father Ron said Jesus has two identities and loyalties—as Hebrew God and universal God.

“Being a universal Christian is a powerful identity we can’t blow off any more than I could blow off my identity as an ordained Catholic priest in the Missionary Oblate order, loyal to canon law under Pope Benedict XVI.

“Someone may be a Presbyterian or Episcopalian, but also is a human being, a universal instrument of God. No one can blow off that identity,” he said.

“Part of each of us needs to be part fiercely liberal and part fiercely conservative,” he said.

“On abortion, the right understands that the unborn child is a human life. The left says a woman’s right to choose is the only issue. Both are important issues,” Father Ron said

“In Canada, we just had a fierce debate about gay marriage. The right and the left knocked each other out. The right defended the constitution, and the left emphasized freedom of religion.”

Teaching in a graduate theological school, he considers theology a liberal enterprise and catechesis a conservative enterprise.

“The purpose of theology is to stretch our minds to ask questions, so we mature in faith. There are no irreverent questions. Catechism nurtures neophytes into faith, teaching rules, dogma and doctrine,” he said. “Both are needed in the church.”

While calling Catholics in the audience to be loyal to their church, he asked what that loyalty means about Hindus, Taoists, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and others, given that “we are brothers and sisters under one God, the God of all who created all.

“That reality creates an innate tension we must carry,” he said.

Two years ago, the most popular movies were “The Passion of Christ” and “Fahrenheit 911.” Catholics produced both films. Mel Gibson, a right-wing Catholic, produced “The Passion of Christ.” Michael Moore, a secular humanistic Catholic, produced “Fahrenheit 911.”

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Michael and Mel were in the same parish—even in the same person!” Father Ron contemplated.

He then noted some principles to help people develop inclusive ecclesiology and humanity.

“We need to carry both parts of Christ: the Christ who came to the world and loved it in a way that scandalized the world, and the Christ who stood where the cross was erected—wherever anyone is rejected or excluded for being unborn, old, even a murderer.

“Capital punishment excludes. Standing at the cross, we must tell the world it is wrong,” he said.

With God as author of all that is, Father Ron advised saying “yes, but” to the world—“yes” for example, to the Olympic Games for the beautiful, disciplined bodies, but “no” to Nike’s labor practices, to steroids and to competition.

“We must see both what’s right and what’s wrong,” he said.

Similarly, no matter how great people think the United States is, he said, they should not be afraid to offer criticism if they love it. Part of loving and being loyal to family, friends, church and country means to be critical and speak if something is wrong and needs to change, he said.

“That’s how to bring the tension together and carry it,” he said. “Sensible people feel the tension in the church and society.

“Jesus is right, left and middle, so we do not need to be right, left or middle, but men or women of faith, letting faith lead us to be compassionate,” he said.

He considers ideological liberalism or conservatism “phases we go through to reach our second naiveté, which is past sophistication, polarities or common ground.”

Rather than letting an ideology limit, Father Ron advises letting faith “stretch you further.”

“Ideology is like a disease. If we think based on group thinking, we inhale ideology like a virus. We need to ask what is real and what we really believe.

“To be healthy, we need to know there are boundaries to truth. We need to know dogma and be obedient, because without laws, we have anarchy. We also need poetry—theology and love—that inflames and inspires our hearts.”

So he calls for “giving up our need to be right,” stopping at the foot of the cross aware “we will transmit the hatred and injustice we don’t transform into love.”

Full article can be read here By Mary Stamp, Fig Tree editor - © November 2005

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