Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 119:73-80; 145, Genesis 49:1-28, 1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1, Mark 7:24-37
Not many people win an argument with Jesus. In Mark’s gospel there is only one example. She was both a Gentile and a woman, neither of which Mark’s audience would normally find persuasive. Yet she manages to change Jesus’ mind. When she asks him to rid her daughter of an unclean spirit, he tells her the food he offers should go to the children (of Israel) and not the dogs (a slur on her people). When she replies even the dogs get the children’s crumbs, her words stir him to help her daughter. What does it tell us that Jesus not only changed his mind, but was convinced to do so by someone considered a lowly outsider?
For one thing, it tells us we ought to be cautious about being overly sure of ourselves. If Jesus can change his mind, we can too. Closing our minds, especially when we are called to be merciful, betrays both the ministry of Jesus and what we ourselves are called to do. The moment we declare boundaries around the realm of God’s grace, we have placed our own wisdom above that of Christ.
It also tells us outsiders can be insightful critics. Individuals and communities often dismiss valid criticisms because they come from “outsiders” who couldn’t possibly understand, or perceive objective yet unflattering observations as attacks. Instead of absorbing facts and asking ourselves hard questions, we dig in our heels and counter-attack. And it doesn’t take much for us to tag someone as other: Christian communities do this both with non-Christians, and fellow believers who are in different denominations or understand scripture differently. Not so with Jesus. When an outsider presented a valid perspective, he responded not with defense or attack, but reconciliation and healing. That must be our model as well.
We don’t want to change our beliefs or practices like a reed swaying in the breeze of every opinion, but if continuing those beliefs and practices requires us to ignore or reject challenging truths … they were never very strong anyway. Weak faith shrinks by rejecting truth; strong faith expands by accepting it.
Comfort: Truth will only make your faith stronger.
Challenge: Consider how do you deal with challenges to your beliefs? Do you calmly consider other opinions, or do you immediately seek to dismiss or refute them?
Prayer: God, you alone know all truth. Help me to love the world as you have truly created it, and not as my limited human understanding has tried to define it. Amen.
Discussion: Some might argue Jesus already knew he was going to reconcile with the woman. If this is the case, why might he have at first denied her? Does it change our understanding of the lessons in the story?
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