Sunday Week 20 Year A

What’s the point of the Incarnation if God doesn’t learn something? …
Jesus is having a bad day—maybe a bad month. He’s in retreat—pulled out of Galilee—and come here to the Canaanite territory near Tyre and Sidon and I see him desperate for a break: for time and space. It has been rough for him, these last weeks—with his cousin John slaughtered and his own attempts to think things through frustrated by hungry crowds hanging on his word, begging for his touch. This is his second try. Leave the damned Galilee for a foreign field where no one knows him, no one shares his God, and where no one will bother him. And if the disciples will let him, he’ll rest and pray and see where his call is taking him, where his power and passion are taking him, … and what the price might be.
But then comes the rowdy Canaanite woman shouting, shouting and even here he can have no peace. Maybe he’s angered by the easy way she steals the language of his faith to call him “Son of David” or maybe, like I said, it’s just been a bad day, but something gets him on his high horse. Something possesses him to treat her shamefully. First with silence; then with contempt but … somewhere between snappish retorts he comes to his senses—he learns something: something about faith, something about his call, something about his God. Because something in her full-on reality, in her bare-faced cheek, in her flesh-and-blood desperation, forces its way through his easy answers and gets him to come to, to look and listen and understand.
Fifteen chapters in, she is the first female voice to be heard in Matthew’s gospel and what she says teaches God a lesson.
I wonder maybe what lesson it teaches us? Or, more to the point, let’s turn that around: I wonder what lesson God is waiting to learn from you and me?
What does God need to learn from us that will explode her assumptions? Maybe what it’s like to be a catholic woman longing for priesthood? What it’s like to be gay person pitied by their own church? Or what it’s like to seek asylum and find only mistrust and a cold shoulder? Maybe…
But maybe we say “well God already knows all that.” Yet we give God a chance to know it from the inside … full-on.
Or—forget the causes and the clichés—what does God want to learn about you? What has God been waiting to hear from you this week that has gone unsaid because it is obvious, because God already knows? A lot of embarrassment can hide under what’s obvious. A lot of intimacy can be side-stepped for the “already known.” Because even if God does know, God still wants to hear it from our own lips: how much we love him; how hard it is to be a wife, a priest, a son, the one in charge; how it feels to grow old. God still longs to hear from our hearts what we fear, what we desire … and what we fear to desire.

2 replies on “Sunday Week 20 Year A”

  1. This passage about the Canaanite woman … In one of his books, forget which one, William Barry says that this didn’t really happen but was put in by the gospel writer to refer to allowing gentiles in.

    I hope that’s not so, because I like this Jesus so much. Immutable God changes his mind! Because of love – makes me cry 🙂

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