Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Daily Lenten Meditation -- 1 Day Late

APOLOGIES: Yesterday, I neglected to put up the meditation for the day.  Here is the Lenten Meditation for Monday, March 3.  As usual, for the privacy of parishioners, the writer's name is not given.

Lessons for the Day:  Genesis 49:1-28;  1 Corinthians 10:15-11:1;  Mark 7:24-37

Attempting to lead a spiritual life is no guarantee that we will always be cheerful and loving.  Even our Lord had his moments.  In the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman who comes to him for healing for her daughter, Mark portrays Jesus as irritable and prejudiced in his response, even though he ends by giving the woman what she asks for.
Mark begins by mentioning that Jesus has traveled all the way from Galilee to Lebanon, to the city of Tyre, apparently in hopes of getting away for a bit from the pressures of his ministry.  Yet even where he had hoped to remain anonymous, someone in need tracks him down.
Perhaps it is not surprising that Jesus is not initially pleased to be approached, but his irritable reply about its not being fair to give the children’s food to the dogs falls shockingly on our ears.  While it is true that his primary mission is to the people of Israel, we do feel that he might have expressed himself more tactfully.  In Mark’s version of this story, it is clear that our Lord is having an off day; in Luke’s version, the dialogue between Jesus and the woman sounds more like a play they act out, in order to shock the disciples out of their prejudices.
What stands out in both versions of the story is the woman’s humble determination to get whatever she can out of Jesus, and that her persistence pays off.  It is hard to escape the feeling that Jesus is secretly pleased with the woman for not giving up too easily.  She is not put off by Jesus’ harsh words; she will take whatever she can get, for her daughter’s sake.  By turning Jesus’ words around on him, she appears to earn his admiration. 
“All right,” she says, in effect.  “So I’m not important, because your main efforts have to be directed at the Jews.  But that doesn’t mean that you can’t fit in a few Gentiles here and there, in whatever time and energy you have left over.”  Her comeback is neither arrogant nor snappy, but it is unyielding. 
She may have no right to a claim on Jesus’ attention, but she has a daughter who is in need and she trusts that Jesus can and will help.
It is hard not to become irritable at being asked for one more thing, just when we thought we might get a bit of time for ourselves.  Most of the people who asked Jesus for help were probably desperate by the time they got to him, and those who come to us may be equally desperate.  If we are going to be imitators of Christ, there are bound to be moments when someone will accost us who needs more than we feel we can give just then.  So if even our Lord can have an off day, perhaps we should not judge ourselves too harshly when we fall short of perfection.
Yet the point of the story is that whatever Jesus said, he did come through for the woman in her need.  From that, it is obvious that we can trust him to come through for us, too, when we need him; especially in those moments when we are trying to follow in his footsteps by serving those who come to us for help.