Tumbling in the Sand
“Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.” – Mark 7: 26
I wonder if this story is more than it seems. I wonder if this story is more than an encounter between a woman and Jesus. Now, it certainly is a complex enough story when you look at it that way—a story about Jesus learning, a story about the full humanity of Jesus in addition to his divinity—and a story about the gospel being called out beyond itself, beyond the boundaries of old.
That’s perfectly huge and complex—I mean, for a minute, let’s just talk about how Jesus is some how entirely human and entirely God at the same time. What? That’s mysterious and un-explainable. Theologians have written volumes attempting to explain it. The Church has had major fights trying to parse that all out … but, it is the truth the Church professes again and again. Jesus is fully human. Jesus is fully God. Neither nature compromises or modifies the other. But neither are the natures separate from each other as though Jesus were two different “beings” (potentially at odds with one another) in one body. Jesus is still one.
Yeah, I’m thinking I might never really wrap my head around that—but I do like the idea that in Jesus somehow humanity and God are equal; and that in Jesus, we see not only God but also the fullness of what it is to be human. And, to be human is to learn. Perfection isn’t about getting it all right but about always growing and learning along the way. That is fully human. That is perfectly human.
But, in this story, I’m sort of caught up in wondering about that woman. In the cross, we are taught that God shows up where we don’t expect God to be—that God shows up on the cross, in death and suffering—in the despised and outcast. If that’s the case, in this story, does God show up in that woman? This mother pleading for her daughter? This outcast, despised, and yet crying out for mercy—not for herself but for her child? Like Jesus did on the cross? “Father, forgive them…!” It kind of makes me wonder, if in this story—like that one that Leo Tolstoy wrote about the old shoemaker who expected Jesus to come visit—God shows up, just not in the most recognizable form(s)—yes, in the story about the shoemaker, Jesus shows up again and again in different forms: as an old woman and young boy, as a very young child with her very young mother, as a poor man in need of shelter and care. Is that also the case in this story?
Yeah, that sounds a little heretical, I mean: God shows up incarnate in Jesus. Right? But, in this story, does God also show up as a mother begging for her child? Does God also show up as a woman not welcome at the table? Does God also show up as the outsider? I think so. And if that’s so, I think this story shows us a lot of things.
First of all, often we think we know where God is and this is a reminder that God comes in ways we don’t expect, that God shows up begging for mercy, that God shows up outside of our expectations. Secondly, how often are we like Jesus? How often as the Body of Christ—the Church—the place that God is supposed to be—stand there suggesting who gets to eat bread at the table while it is God’s self that is begging us to “Be Opened” to the grace falling, like crumbs from the table of children? And thirdly, how often do we forget that this woman is our mother? How often do we forget that we were not the first invited to the table and that God begged for crumbs for us and, in doing so, opened the very incarnate heart of God and welcomed us all to the feast?