Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Scraps of the Masters Table

August 9, 2017

Wednesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 409

NM 13:1-2, 25–14:1, 26A-29A, 34-35

PS 106:6-7AB, 13-14, 21-22, 23

MT 15: 21-28

There is this woman that I know who has been through a very abusive relationship.  Though it’s been over a decade since she was married to that man, anytime he is around she turns into someone I’ve never met.  This bold and outspoken woman becomes a mouse, unsure of herself and almost afraid to speak.  Just the presence of that person is enough to introduce doubt and fear.  It is as if she forgets exactly who she is.  No amount of reminding seems to be enough.  It is an internal struggle that begins in a place that no one else can see.  A place where one has to remind themselves of who they truly are, who God created them to be.

The Israelites in the desert were much like this in today’s readings.  The same people who had witnessed the many signs of God in Egypt now stood on the precipice of the promise.   Looking from the desert in which they had been traveling into the land of milk and honey must have been a difficult and enticing site.   Waiting for the scouts they had sent in to return with news as to what lay ahead would have been nerve racking.  The anticipation and excitement must have grown from day to day.   Then it happened.   Some of the men who came back began to sow doubt and fear.   They forgot who they were.  It spread.  Like a disease, one by one the people began to doubt and question who God was.   No longer did the column of fire or the splitting of the sea remind them of his protection, but the obstacles to claiming the new land had become too great.  The army of Israel had become a flea circus.

In the Gospel, we see the opposite.  We see a woman who does not forget who she is.  In all humility, she agrees that she is an outsider.  When Jesus compares her to a dog, she doesn’t deny but embraces the symbol.   She begs for the scraps at the table.  That is the key to the Christian life.  Humility.  Meekness.   Being meek doesn’t mean that you are weak.   On the contrary, it means you know exactly who you are.  You know not only your weak points but also your strengths.   You don’t hide what you are good at, but you also don’t brag about it.  Above all, you realize that it is God who provides and not you alone.  Yes, you must work.   You must march into the land that God has promised, but not trust in your own abilities alone.  This spiritual battle we are in is one we will lose if we begin to say “God I got this. I don’t need you anymore.”   The giants in the realm of demons are so far beyond our imagination that it would make the giants in Canaan seem fleas.

There is one more thing that I think these readings remind us to keep in mind.  Not only do we have a tendency to forget who we are, we have a propensity to forget who other people are.  In our zeal to live a happy life, we can often see other people as the inhabitants of the land of milk and honey.   Instead of seeing them as images of God, we see them as obstacles to our needs and desires.  Those who are different than us become the object of ridicule.  Them. The other.  They.  Like the disciples, instead of mercy, we begin to say “send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”   How often do we turn strong, beautiful men and women into hesitant, fearful mice?  How often have we ourselves created the same situation where someone else forgets who they are?  I think that is our challenge today, to build up others.  To remember that we too are not worthy of the scraps we have received from the Master's table and that the scraps are so plentiful that we will never run out when we share them with others.