Monday, September 7, 2009

A Revelatory Woman (Proper 18 Year B)

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
Psalm 125
James 2 1-10, 14-17
Mark 7:24-37

Some rich readings this week. James challenges us about our attitude to the poor. Perhaps a very pertinent reading for these weeks. As + Andy and I read it out loud I couldn’t help but inwardly change the last verse . . . ‘if a brother or sister is naked and lacks health care and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; Keep warm and stay healthy; and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that.’
Anyway, that is just a brief thought to ponder.

The verses that really excited me are the ones in Mark. A reminder, once again, of the important part women played in the life of Jesus and, indeed, in shaping the future and development of the newly emerging Christian faith.

I have many times in the past talked about revelatory women in the life of Jesus. Women who seem to challenge Jesus and open up new horizons to him. Here, in Mark’s gospel we meet another.

We meet the unnamed Canaanite (Syrophoenician) woman who came to Jesus asking for healing for her tormented daughter. In Matthew’s version of this story the disciples even begged Jesus to send her away. They did not want to associate with her.

Jesus spoke to her and told her that he was sent only to the Jews (the house of Israel). Then followed it with an insult . . . that the children’s food could not be thrown to the dogs. No cute pugs in this thought, no much loved family pets but scavengers hungry and a nuisance to all. The unnamed woman retorted that even the dogs were allowed to eat the crumbs. In the telling of the story Jesus recognised her faith and her daughter was healed.

We could read this as a nice story of faith. But I think it is so much more. This woman was used to reveal to Jesus that this newly emerging story was also for the gentiles. It was as if Jesus’ had his eyes opened through the prophetic voice of this woman. Forget waiting for Cornelius’ house to include the gentiles . . . this woman opened the door. Now was the time for the ministry to include the Gentiles. It was a gift which included all.

Blessings Jane