In today’s Gospel we are back with Mark’s fast-paced narrative, and we have an odd, perhaps even awkward pair of stories, that don’t present Jesus in the best light. In the first, Jesus is a long way from home, and by implication a long way from his Jewish compatriots, the children of Israel. When a gentile Syrophoenician woman comes and seeks out his help, he replies in a way that sounds desperately rude – but in a way that would have made perfect sense in the first century, both to Jesus and to her. Jesus hadcome to the children of Israel, that was his mission. When the woman comes to Jesus she also knows the history between the Jews and her people. She’s very aware that he may reject her, but the matter is urgent. She has heard Jesus’ reputation as a healer, and her little daughter is sick, so she keeps on asking and will not be silenced. In this thoughtful and clever exchange, she is aware of her position, so she expresses humility, but she also expresses faith in Jesus, even in her difficult circumstances, and she is persistent. She has no intention of giving up! And because of her faith and her persistence, her daughter is healed. But we also see Jesus today, reaching out beyond his cultural and ethnic limitations when challenged and extending his compassion and his healing touch to help this desperate gentile mother who had come to him in faith, even against their strained history and uncomfortable cultural relationship. Here in this story, it becomes plain that Jesus’ mission will be far wider than ever imagined and that even Gentiles are able to be healed.
In the second story, Jesus takes the deaf man aside, away from the crowd. He heals him without any seeming effort or difficulty, and then tells everyone to keep quiet about it. But this miracle cannot be kept quiet, and people tell the story far and wide. Here is the Gospel: the power of God is present among us, and it cannot be contained.
As we hear these stories today, we ask ourselves where our blind spots are. Where are we limited by our own cultural expectations to see all people as children of God and open to God’s grace, even in our own country and neighbourhood? Jesus constantly challenges us to move outside our comfort zone, and to reach out in faith and trust no matter what our circumstances. Like the people in the second healing story, we need to share this good news far and wide!
In peace, Mother Lynda