Mr. Phillips died some years ago. He was seen as an outcast, unclean, but he left an indelible mark on my heart. That Sunday, St. Mary Magdalene provided meals for homeless clients at the Chapel. Before the meal, came the worship Service. We read the Holy Scriptures and offered a short reflection. Mr. Phillips then raised his hand, indicating that he had something to say. He expressed how close he felt to God as he walked the streets alone. He then demonstrated how he sang and walked to the beat of the hymn, “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.” Mr. Phillips had opened his heart to God! His life gives meaning to Proverbs 22:2, “The rich and the poor have this in common; the Lord is the maker of them all.”
This Sunday’s reading from the Gospel of Mark builds on the theme of God’s inclusiveness. Jesus travels to the Gentile region of Tyre and Sidon and performs healing miracles there. In the first miracle, a Gentile woman of Syrophoenician origin approaches Jesus, pleading for her daughter’s healing from an unclean spirit. By conversing with a Gentile woman, Jewish purity laws would have rendered Jesus unclean. But Jesus, knowing his deeper purpose of bringing salvation to all, engages in conversation with her, “let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Humbly and courageously, the woman replies, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” She understood Jesus’ imagery well and was humble enough to acknowledge that it was not about what she deserved, but through God’s love and mercy, she could share in even small treasures from His table, the crumbs. Also, her spiritual ears were open to foresee in Jesus, God’s movement of salvation, beginning with Israel and going out to all the nations.
In the Second healing, some friends bring to Jesus a man who is deaf and speech impaired. Jesus puts his fingers in the man’s ears and with authority, He declares, “Be opened”. And the deaf man is healed. We understand that both healings represent more than physical restoration. By the woman’s faith, she and her daughter are made right with God, welcomed into His kingdom. God’s kingdom is for all people, transcending race, geography, ethnic or gender divisions. The healing of the deaf man reminds us that we too need healing. We need healing of our spiritual ears, so that our ears may be opened to hear and understand God’s words. We need healing of our speech so we may open our lips and passionately express God’s message of love and mercy for all.