Welive in a multi-cultural, multi-religious world. We have had many of these religions for a long time and some are still emerging. Our understanding of self, individual fulfillment, and interpretation of history has given us even more freedom to make new groups and belief systems and after 38000 Christian denominations and counting, besides all other religious conglomerations and splinter groups.
Many of these groups have emerged as a result of the understanding of Salvation, and the way we get to it. We found our ideaof salvation sometimes limited us from getting into heaven and while someothers made it too easy to get there. Then there are several in between who stay in the gray area about heaven and hell.
Inshort, Christian Doctrine of salvation is a very difficult one for the majorityof the people of the world to understand, and for that reason even for clergythemselves. Why is that?
Look at what is said here today in the Gospel. Here comes a woman seeking help and Jesus is not making it easy saying you don’t belong to the bunch I amsent to serve. It also sounds like Jesus was not very nice to her as many would feel. Compares her to a dog apparently. What was that all about? People have told me they don’t like this scripture passage and what it might say about Jesus.Now for some people in the world this sentence alone is sufficient to be turnedoff of Christianity and Jesus.
Butin this story it looks like the woman’s need was great and her conviction of who she was talking to was even greater. She is not turned off. No insult, and injury of top of that, if that is what it feels like to us, it was not to her obviously, could turn her away and she sticks toher initial request and then recognition of who Jesus was.
Jesus was a man, and one that was fully human who lived in the Middle East. Now if we apply the stereotype we have on the middle eastern men, true or false, sure there was enough reason for that Canaanite woman to be upset. However, she did not hesitate; change her attitude or her impression of Jesus, namely The LORD in spite of how Jesus treated her.
It is not going to be a new idea from me to say that it was her faith. Great. We are all on the same page now. It was her faith. I believe it was faith, which was the conviction ofthe heart, that went beyond the confines of religions and belief systems. It was surely faith, that did not limit her idea of God to the limitations of the world, and the stereotypes of culture, gender or orientation.
Her faith was a lifestyle, where one takes nothing for granted, nothing as limiting, andnothing as offensive. It was a way of acknowledging the presence of God even inthe midst of the most insulting moment of life. It was beyond the doctrines anddogmas we are used to now. It was beyond the interpretations of scholars who are trying to interpret something of the past.
Yes, I did talk about religion as I started. Let us just thing for a minute about howdid religions come about? A religion in its inception was simply a way offinding meaning for things that did not make sense. The sun and the moon, the wind and the fire, all that had more power over man. They had to find a meaning for things that they could not explain and then they all came together at some point or another to make a community of believers. they came together to believe in the same things and solve the same issues together. One group had some answers other did not. Thismade two groups of people namely those who know things different from othersthat did not know the same thing as the first group. The groups multiplied and increased and continue even today.
We are all in certain danger of believing in things that others don’t. There is a mythin every religion that there are people out there who can be excluded fromthese groups because they don’t know the things we know.
Inour context it will be something like this. Am I sent only to the enlightenedEpiscopalians to spread the message of love because we know how to love andcare for others? Or is it a myth in my heart that we are the only people whoknow how to love? Was Jesus sent only to the people of Israel and not to thegentiles because the gentiles were not in the group of the enlightened like theIsraelites?
Thepoor woman challenges Jesus, and pushes him to a corner to acknowledge God,grace and religion are greater than the restrictions and convictions of areligious understandings and self proclaimed Buddhas. God’s grace is greaterthan man’s exclusivity that goes true even for the God in Jesus, as well thosegathered around Him.
Applying this to our context can be read something like this. “Ifwe have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to eachother”. Says Mother Theresa. While she is talking here of the world that isravaged by wars and famine, it is truly and fully applicable to all those whobelieve in a God but can not find their way around the other. It is meant forthose who do not understand what was wisely said by St. John of the Cross, “Inthe evening, we will be judged on love.”
Soin the final analysis what is this woman teaching us? That we all have thegrace in true faith to ‘fire back’ at even God when we are left for granted inthe exclusivity of the world. Faith is not simply the conviction of the heartin things that are unseen, but in the courage to express the truth that to beloved and cared for are fundamental rights of every human being.
Jesusteaches the world in making disciples of the world, we need to travel to Tyreand Sydon, the land of the outcasts. A devout Jew will not go into these landswithout being defiled and the breaking of traditions. What was he doingthere? There must be more than simply concluding he lost his way and got there.If we look deeper we will find that here “
His location, actions andwords all address the traditions, limitations and boundaries that the discipleswill encounter. By pushing at, dismantling and crossing over the boundariesthat the disciples might themselves put on “all nations,” Jesus foreshadows hisintention to declare the boundaries of the great commission to be limitless”.[i]
Faith liberates us fromfear. It is fear that causes us to limit. When limits are removed, we will befreed. Faith will rise up top to those who have the courage to leave fear.
[i] Boundless discipleship, Karoline Lewis