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.
Please support the Brothers work.
The brothers of SSJE rely on the inspired kindness of friends to sustain our life and our work. We are grateful for the prayers and support provided to us.