Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Crumb

As today’s Gospel opens, Jesus is trying to hide out; he needs solitude for rest, for prayer. But a woman interrupts him. She’s a Syrophoenician, and she knows that she of all people has no right to make demands on him. She’s an outsider on two counts: a non-Jew and a woman now alone with a man.* Definitely an outsider. She knows it; so she does what she has to do- she falls at Jesus’ feet in utter humility and desperation. Truth be told, she’s got nothing to lose; as it is, her life’s in shambles, her daughter’s very sick, in fact she been sick for a very long time- with an “unclean spirit.” God only knows what that means. Is it seizures, is there shrieking, thrashing? We can only imagine what this woman goes through each day, what havoc it has wrought in her family. She is consumed with concern for her daughter’s welfare. She’s trapped; but she knows Jesus can help her; and so she begs.

But Jesus seemingly disinterested insists that he is supposed to feed only the children of Israel, not dogs. She is undaunted by his very blunt metaphor. “Fine then.” she says, “Fine; even dogs get the scraps, the crumbs. I want a crumb. Give me a crumb. Please, Lord.” Jesus is “bested”* by her forthrightness and insistence, her loving desperation. As the “ultimate outsider” she reminds Jesus as well as us that there are no limits to whom God calls his very own children. Jesus is won over, perhaps we could say magnetized by her anguish, by its impact on his heart. He is moved, he is changed by the encounter. And he reveals himself as relational, connected.

Photograph by Brother Anthony Khan. 
* Donahue & Harrington, Sacra Pagina: Mark, p. 237.