[Jesus] then called the crowd together and said, "Listen,
and take this to heart. it's not what you swallow that pollutes
your life, but what you vomit up."
Later his disciples came and told him, "Did you know how
upset the Pharisees were when they heard what you said?"
Jesus shrugged it off. "Every tree that wasn't planted by
my Father in heaven will be pulled up by its roots. Forget them.
They are blind men leading blind men. When a blind man leads
a blind man, they both end up in the ditch."
Peter said, "I don't get it. Put it in plain language."
Jesus replied, "You too? Are you being willfully stupid?
Don't you know that anything that is swallowed works its way
through the intestines and is finally defecated. But what comes
out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It's from the heart
that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications,
thefts, lies, and cussing. That's what pollutes. Eating or not
eating certain foods, washing or not washing your hands -- that's
neither here nor there."
From there Jesus took a trip to Tyre and Sidon. They had hardly
arrived when a Canaanite woman came down from the hills and pleaded,
"Mercy, Master, Son of David! My daughter is cruelly afflicted
by an evil spirit."
Jesus ignored her. The disciples came and complained, "Now
she's bothering us. Would you please take care of her? She's
driving us crazy"
Jesus refused, telling them, "I've got my hands full dealing
with the lost sheep of Israel."
Then the woman came back to Jesus, went to her knees and begged.
"Master, help me."
He said, "It's not right to take bread out of children's
mouths and throw it to dogs."
She was quick: "You're right, Master, but beggar dogs do
get scraps from the master's table."
Jesus gave in. "Oh, woman, your faith is something else.
What you want is what you get!" Right then her daughter
[The Message ]
There is some truth to the reality of what comes into us can
defile us. America, the land of the obese, knows this reality.
Everyone knows it about their own cultural icons. The institutions
we all deal with collectively set a tone for where spirit is
But all these influences that bombard us day and night are not
determinants. We yet can learn and choose rather than just react.
Much harder to deal with, but yet open to new life, are the validating
responses we make. If we respond to the openness of GOD's love,
we validate that. If we respond to the consumer drive of our
culture, we validate that. If we respond to belittling jokes,
we validate that.
What comes out of us completes a circuit. The longer the circuit
runs the deep rut it makes and the more difficult it is to break
free from without major conversion events.
The coming in part is simply present, what we do with it in response
is crucial to our joy in life. Do we conspire with institutional
racism and sweatshops? Do we conspire with divisions and brokennesses
of all kinds? Do with conspire with rigid rules for the benefit
of the present rulers?
If Jesus is correct about the internal response being key to
the fullness of life, what are we to make about his going on
to miss that response from a Canaanite woman? Do we want to posit
a testing Jesus that pushes us to our creative limits? Do we
find some excuse for Jesus' not paying attention to the first
part of this reading?
It is not easy to put a uniform and consistent Jesus into both
the fore and aft of this reading. Perhaps that attempt is less
helpful than trying to see in both stories how the same points
are covered in entirely different fashions.
Is the difficulty or slowness of Jesus responding to a need for
mercy an issue of the woman's foreignness? femaleness? pleading?
shouting? persistence? or Jesus' learning? teaching style? being
out of his usual haunts?
If the woman had not kept after her need and been a witty conversationalist
would Jesus keep healing from a little girl? Something is going
on here that needs deep contemplation. Something here is beyond
our usual explanations. Let's not talk "faith" too
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