8/16 Readings: Unity and Dividing Walls

I11 Pentecost

Gen. 45:1-15 [Is. 56:1, 6-8]
Ps. 133 [Ps. 67]
Rm. 11:1-2a, 29-32
Matt. 15 (10-20), 21-2

We may tell the story of Jesus using the story of Joseph and his brothers.

The brothers plotted to kill Joseph, but instead, threw him into a pit and sold him into slavery.  At one point, Joseph was imprisoned, another image of death.  Delivered because of his dream-interpreting skills regarding an impending famine, Joseph rose to power in the household of Pharaoh and presided over a massive project to store up food during seven years of plenty.  The famine arrived, and the brothers of Joseph, desperate for food, came to Egypt.  Joseph, as if risen from the dead, met his betrayers, and forgave them from the heart.  Is this not what Jesus did and does even now?

Seeing that we are all “disobedient,” Jesus Christ came “so that he may be merciful to all” (Rom. 11:31). “Joseph made himself known to his brothers” (Gen. 45:1).  Jesus Christ makes himself known to us as a font of mercy.  “[Joseph] fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck.  And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him” (Gen. 45:14).  Jesus is doing this for us also, coming to us, embracing us, baptizing us in the tears of his loving-kindness, and talking to us as his friends.  Reaching all and loving all, Jesus creates catholic unity.  In the words of the Psalmist, “Oh, how good and pleasant it is, when brethren live together in unity!  It is like fine oil upon the head that runs down upon the beard of Aaron and runs down the collar of his robe” (Ps. 133:1-3f).

In Christ, the dividing walls of hostility are falling, and a new humanity is coming into being.  We may not, however, sufficiently appreciate what this means until we see the thick and high walls that separate people from each other, in the time of Jesus and in our time.  In a sense, we must see division before we can understand unity.  A troubling work begins at this point, and a more distressing image of Jesus emerges, though it undermines nothing of his universal love.

When Jesus met a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well and asked for a drink of water, she asked, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (John 4:9).  An explanatory note follows, “Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.” A dividing wall of religion and politics separated these two peoples.  In the end, Jesus revealed himself as the “I am” of both Jews and Samaritans.

In a near reversal of the above story, Jesus meets a Canaanite woman who cries out, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon” (Matt. 15:22).  In this case, Jesus is the one to draw back, not answering the woman at first, and then finally saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24).  The woman kneels and says, “Lord, help me,” to which Jesus says, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs” (Matt. 15:26).  The Canaanite woman asks for the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.  Her importunity Jesus calls “great faith.”  John Chrysostom says the woman exhibits great “earnestness,” “a goodly shamelessness,” “high self-command.” By resisting her, Jesus intensifies and exposes her “great faith,” a faith that will break down an opposing barrier.  Strangely, this woman stands in Christ as she crosses a religious and political barrier on behalf of her sick daughter.

Look It Up:  The Collect

Think About It:  A godly and catholic life cannot always be meek and mild.  Implore on behalf of others.


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