MT 15: (10-20) 21-28
(Sunday between August 14th & 20th...In 2005, August 14th...13th S.after Pentecost)

The Pharisees & Scribes are good at putting Jesus down. Sometimes we join their ranks. Whereas Jesus illustrates & illuminates rather than puts down. Those who espouse narrow interpretations of Law rather than Love take note!

Jesus says it's what comes out of us that defiles, rather than what goes into us. Devil, demons, evil in general, are better understood as products of human ingenuity, emerging from the dark side of ourselves. Not from a so-called God of love who persists in some perverted on-going 'testing' of his people.

'Demons in the air' is as unhelpful an approach to life's ills as 'Reds under the beds'. Scapegoating devils & demons, 'axes of evil' of any kind, is likely to be a facile avoidance of issues simmering & festering inside our own skin. Nor does it equip us to confront real issues where we live & move have our being. Any more than it helps to have someone shouting that kind of thing at us in church!

If we are called to speak for God in public, do we find ourselves pulling our punches for fear of offending today's 'pharisees', religious or political? Are we also scared of offending 'public opinion', generous contributors, local power brokers, etc.?   Two things: 1) Those we preach to have to live with these same issues as they go about their business out in their margins; &, 2) I'm totally transparent before God, & more seen through by the congregation, too, than I'd like to think! Question: Can I see through my own self, too, & do something about, seek help for what I see?

The rougher side of Jesus' tongue (we fool ourselves if we don't admit it has such a side) comes to the fore in earlier verses as he talks about weeds & 'blind' people, & when he rebukes Peter. Being front-person has its risks! None of us wants to be thought of as either 'weed' , 'blind', or 'still as thick as the rest' [Complete Bible, ad loc.], do we, now? The 'parable' Peter wants explained is more a riddle in Wisdom tradition. Do we vary the shots in our communications armoury as Jesus does?

The Canaanite woman is a great & key figure of the Gospel. We learn a lot more from her than from most of the disciples. If not exactly lost sheep of the House of Israel, they're often very sheepish! Our woman - let's give her a name & a face & call her 'Cananea' as a sign we take her seriously - Cananea worries away doggedly at Jesus. First, he's silent. Which doesn't mean he's ignoring her plea. Not at all. Then he tells the disciples, & her by implication, in curt terms where his priorities lie. He speaks to her brusquely, likening her to a dog. [Warren Carter, Matthew and the Margins, Orbis, 2000, ad loc, quotes Ringe {in 'Gentile Woman's Story'} 'Jesus seems to be caught with his compassion down'.] And well it may be. But can we also imagine a smile on his face as he picks up on her dog-gedness? Teasing a bit, maybe, but not being nasty to her. She's shrewd enough to keep the joke going, & claim a kind of honorary citizenship in Israel by admitting to being like one of their dogs. She breaks through Jesus' 'defences' & he welcomes her, & by extension her daughter, as his own. It's a great story! Illustrating that relating seriously to God takes all the doggedness we can muster! Cananea is a great encouragement for all of us who feel unknown & unrecognized, more than a bit outside church or social structures & practices. Wonder at how Jesus enfolds her in God's embrace. Many of us have difficulty in embracing 'outsiders'. afer to keep them at bay! By attitudes, rules, practices, traditions.... Cananea's story is a great illustration of Bonhoeffer's point about grace not being cheap.