Privilege and power show up in the story of the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-37). Jesus is confronted by a Gentile, Greek-speaking woman. This nameless woman of another race is desperately in need of a miracle for her daughter. The woman grovels at Jesus’ feet, believing that he is the Messiah. And yet she is ignored. She continues to plead for Jesus’ attention. Again, he refuses her request. He says to her: “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs” (Mark 7:27).
This Gospel story portrays a Jesus who is dismissive, dehumanizing, and holding firm to his place of privilege. In her persistence, she responds: “Yea, Lord; even the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs” (Mark 7:28). It is in a space of proximity where her voice, the voice of the oppressed, is heard. Jesus is confronted, challenged, and changed. Here, Jesus had gender, race and religious privilege. Jesus chose to use his power to see the women of faith, to challenge his beliefs, and to change his mind.
This message is excerpted from “Confronting our comfort” by Judith Roberts in the July/August 2017 Gather magazine. Today is the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost. Today we commemorate Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, 1153.
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