Truth and honesty with a helping of loyalty has been the recipe for my life for a long time now. Given the circumstances that I grew up in, it’s not as surprising as you might imagine. I have said on more than one occasion that my mother’s attachment to the truth was a bit fluid. There came a point in my life where I did not believe much of what she said. It created difficulties for me because there were truths that I needed that she did not possess. Sad really. I think she came to a place where she believed the lies that she was telling; she certainly acted on her misinformation more than once.
If we are honest with ourselves we all have those spiritual blind spots where we have taken on some idea or belief that we were told was true, probably by some authority figure that we trusted. I had to unlearn many of my parents’ attitudes as I got older. Attitudes about others but also attitudes about me that just were not true. I had to unlearn lies that if I continued to believe, were going to become truly problematic.
What we say matters. Sometimes, what we don’t say matters even more, especially if we remain quiet while someone says something that is untrue. In this time in our society, words have become very powerful. The level of discourse on just about anything has reached a spiritually violent level. It needs to stop before we blow up our planet. People are getting hurt physically, spiritually, emotionally… some even to the point of being killed. Some perhaps even hide behind their religious beliefs to help give their death dealing attitudes some street cred. All I can say to that is that in the kingdom of heaven there is no street cred that’s going to give anyone the upper hand.
In today’s gospel Jesus challenges the law in ways that are unpopular with the authorities. Later on in Acts we know that Peter continues to struggle with the notion of clean and unclean. It becomes something that separates Paul’s ministry from Peter’s. Paul, who was carrying the gospel to Gentiles, did not believe that new converts to the Way of Jesus had to become Jews first. This teaching from Jesus backs up Paul’s view here, because he says that what comes from our hearts, from that place of who we really are, is what contaminates us. It is far more harmful to us spiritually and in our relationship to God and others when we lie about others or when we continue to see other children of God as so different from us that we have now labeled them in ways that make us outsiders. Every time we build a wall around ourselves to keep people out of our lives and communities, here comes Jesus to challenge us and our beliefs. What do we really believe about our neighbor and how do we show it? Do we believe the baptismal covenant when we say it together, or, is the racially charged joke we told our friends at lunch how we really feel? Or did we hear the joke and say nothing because we were afraid of the consequences? Whether we were the teller of the joke or we didn’t confront the lie, we are guilty of defiling ourselves with a heart that refuses to see all people as God sees them. Lies, no matter how “innocent” we think they are, are not part of the kingdom of God. Even a joke can show others what’s really on our heart.
What we all should be doing instead, is letting God change our hearts. There is enough spiritual violence that is looking to make “converts”. Why not instead, help to confront the lies at least one person at a time?
So, what about the second half of the Gospel, where Jesus ignores and then appears to insult the Canaanite woman? There are people who try to get at that passage a number of ways. I’m not particularly comfortable with the idea that Jesus suddenly changed his mind; after all, he was going into Gentile territory for a reason. Was he testing her faith? Could be. I’m not a fan of thinking of it like that, but I can see where one could make that case. Was he putting her forth as a model of faith for her community? Perhaps. The fact that he addresses her at all is an argument for that. In that way of thinking, her faith as one who was left out of the old covenant, becomes something to show the glory of God’s mercy and life saving love; we have seen that before in the man born blind in John’s gospel. Maybe we all hear something different; something we need to hear at that moment… In short… I don’t know what to do with that one. This is where confirmation class is handy because we can pull out my favorite word, Mystery…
I pray that all of us might be able to examine our hearts to see what we truly believe… and where there are lies about ourselves or about others, may the light of the Holy Spirit within us, help to guide us to truth.