This week Gospel Proper 15
Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28
[Jesus called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”]
Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
I have heard this week’s Gospel many times. It always seems to focus around the crumbs under the table and the dogs! But as I read it through this time I am struck by the greatness of the woman’s faith.
Faith for me is a tenant that has gotten me this far in life and one that I expect will carry me on throughout our current crisis and into whatever is next. When I entered discernment and started on the path toward ordination I had faith that I was following where the Holy Spirit was leading me. I was not disappointed.
I have also had a different expectation of where I thought things were going only to be reminded that I am not the one in control. We have a tendency to want everything our way. In this week’s Gospel the disciples wanted to send the woman away because she was “shouting after” them. That must have been uncomfortable and quite a spectacle. It would have drawn attention to them, but the wrong kind of attention. Once again the disciples didn’t get their way.
Jesus looked beyond all that. In fact, he even tells her that he was not sent there to take care of her when he says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” In other words, she was not one of the chosen people. But she asked for help and Christ saw her faith. He helped her, further modeling loving your neighbor as yourself.
We all have the opportunity to follow Christ’s example and love our neighbor as ourselves. I’m not talking about some major earth moving thing that you have to do. A kind word to a stranger who needs one can go a long way. Or perhaps helping someone with some small chore.
We recently returned from being out of town and my neighbor took our trash cans out to the street and then brought them back every trash day. Since we were gone they were empty and I asked him why he did that. He said that he didn’t want the garbage man or the casual passerby to know we weren’t home. I love my neighbors and I feel fortunate to live where I do and among whom I do!
Follow Christ’s example and love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
Two quick things: first, we are in the process of planning an outdoor service at church for the 30th of August. More on that to come in the next couple of weeks. Second, some of you may not be aware that the Episcopal Book Of Common Prayer is available in a PDF format online and is free. Here is a link.
Peace to you,