To Question God, An Act of Faith – Br. Sean Glenn
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I don’t know about you, but this reading from Mark always strikes me as a bit of a scandal; to encounter Jesus with a very human prejudice on his lips. I’ve always found it a bit disturbing, especially to see a woman with a deep need coming to the incarnate Word of God, only to be met with an oddly human formation. Where’s the good news in this?—I often have to ask myself.
As I sat with this scandal of a reading for the past few days, I discerned three possible ways I think it might speak some good news to us, and might actually communicate some of the wideness of God’s mercy at play.
One of the things that speaks a word of good news is also one of the things that is most unsettling about this: we encounter a very human Jesus. A Jesus who has been formed by human communities with their own blind-spots, prejudices, and hatreds. Children verses dogs.
And yet there is something of grace we can find in this humanness. For even as we all move in the world surrounded by prejudices, confronting out own prejudices, it is a comfort to know that God himself has come into even that sharp, dark place.
And, secondly, having been found in that dark human place of prejudice, God himself seems willing to be pulled and pushed by the requests of a human being—a woman who comes to him and doesn’t quite agree with what she’s been told. Sure, compare me and my people to dogs all you want, but isn’t God’s grace and message for the world, O Jesus of Nazareth?
The fact that the incarnate Word of God is found willing to let a human woman come to him in this place of human formation and let his own mind be changed by that experience is significant to me. Because it further draws us into a place where we can finally come to God with the fullness of our own disagreement, our own resentments, our own looking at the world and saying, “God, is this really what you mean to be happening? Is this the real expanse of your mercy in the world?” And it doesn’t seem to me, here, in this encounter between Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman, that God minds our questioning or disagreement. God seems to say, “Okay, come to me. What do you find missing here? Where is my love not expansive enough?”
For that reason, I think Mark preserves this really embarrassing scene. If we’re going to push God in any direction, we’re invited to push God to remember the expansiveness of God’s love. And so I invite us in the days ahead to be mindful of the fact that God has met us in our own scandalous places, our own blind-spots.
And like the woman in this encounter with Jesus, we are invited to make our prayer of reminder known—to remind God of what God intends, even if we cannot quite see what it is, even if we have to say, “I’ll take the crumbs, Lord. I’ll take the crumbs.”
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy.
Like the wideness of the sea.
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In speaking of Jesus’ humanity, v. 24 seems to say that Jesus was,very tired, seeking rest, to hide from the world for just a bit. Then Mark says that “immediately” a worried, distraught mother appears, begging help. This woman serves as a reminder to the all to human Jesus of Who he is.
May she also be a reminder to me, that I may be tired, but when there is need that I, too, might draw on the Heavenly energy
This sermon is getting shared with members of our zoom group who recently studied the book, A Journey Through Mark, as we were troubled and shared much discussion about this encounter; Jesus and the woman, and their conversation.
…reread the tower of Babel story…seems that God didn’t like the united one world? God separated the people w/their own country and languages…scary?
Very insightful for my own life and God’s patience with me for my understanding of some why’s in my life. You’ve given me a better perspective and much food for thought. God bless you.
Thank you Sean. I love the last but one paragraph. “I’ll take the crumbs Lord. I’ll take the crumbs.”
Next time I’m having an inward rage about not getting what I want, immediately
I want it – Hopefully I’ll remember. Thank you Margo
Lovely sermon, Br. Sean – and there’s more good news in the fact that this scene is the only time anybody ever wins an argument with Jesus. The fact that it’s a woman, with a little girl as beneficiary, is a bonus for all of us who are seeking to reclaim the scriptures for a feminist perspective. Thank you!
Indeed, Jesus is aways reminding us that he is the son of man as well as Son of God, reminding
us that we are children of God as well of man.
Brother Sean, Your meditation is so inspiring given the secular world we live in. The flexibility of the Saviour is much welcomed here. Incarnation remains the great divine gift. Fr. Jay L. Tillitt
One of the things that this passage shows us is that Jesus was teachable.
I don’t think of any other right away that demonstrates Jesus being taught by someone, having his understanding lifted and enlarged by a person who sought him out.
It is notable that the one Jesus was taught by was a woman.
Which says something worth paying attention to, especially to those who think women should be silent in church.
The Tyre region is on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. I like to imagine Jesus wandering along the shoreline, looking out over the sea to the far horizon and God his Father saying my Love is this wide, this deep, this expansive – enlarging his worldview through the visual image of the vastness of the sea.
Thank you Br Sean for your sermon and especially for ending it with
“There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
Like the wideness of the sea.”