BREAD FROM THE TABLE
READ: Matthew 15:22-28
“While Jesus was traveling in the region of Tyre and Sidon, a Canaanite woman came shouting, ‘Lord, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.’ But Jesus did not answer her. His disciples then pleaded with Him, saying, ‘Master, give this woman what she wants because she keeps shouting and shouting.’ To the disciples Jesus said, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.’ Then the woman came running up to Jesus and bowed before Him. ‘Lord,’ she said, ‘help me.’ Jesus replied, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’ To this she responded, ‘Ah, yes, Lord, this may be so, but even the dogs are allowed eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table. Then Jesus answered, ‘Woman, you possess such great faith. Let your desire be granted to you.’ And at that moment the woman’s daughter was well again.” – Matthew 15:22-28
This account in the Gospel has always intrigued me, not because of its outcome – the healing of the daughter – but the process by which Jesus seems to be persuaded. Jesus states that His mission is to the children of Israel. He quotes a well-known proverb to the woman, ‘It is not fair nor right to take food meant for the children in order to feed the dogs.” But this Canaanite woman presents an argument that does seem to persuade Jesus to change His course. She argues, “But surely you have seen the dogs clean up the crumbs that fall from the children’s table … [and the crumbs will prove to be sufficient for me. …(my addition)]”. With this argument … along with both the persistent intensity of her faith in Christ’s power and her unfailing compassion for her child … Jesus changes his mind and grants her request. Intriguing! … What has happened? I believe that here we have the possibility that Jesus is using the relentless faith of a Canaanite woman to demonstrate for his Jewish disciples something about a new idea in the history of the faith, the understanding of the universal nature of the Emerging Realm of God (the coming Kingdom). What we have received from God is for everyone, not only the Jews, not only for us.
A few weeks back, Greyfriars’ Abbey housed a group of Buddhist monks who were traveling through this region. We welcomed them as we would any other pilgrim. We housed them in the Guest House and fed them in the Refectory. We invited them to join us in our chapel services. They came, choosing to pray quietly, listening to our liturgy respectfully. During our hours of contemplative prayer, they meditated along side us in their own way. During our hours of manual labor, they worked beside us. After three days, they continued on their journey, leaving with us a gift, a small, porcelain jar of saffron spice, and a few memories of time spent with most exotic sojourners.
One might wonder why we do such open door hospitality. We do so … because it is the nature of who we are … we provide for those who are loved by Christ, and not merely those who do love Christ. One might ask, ‘What about your evangelism with such as these?” Our answer is that our evangelism is allowing others to experience the Christ who lives in the midst of us. Our Benedictine way of evangelism is to simply be openly and unashamedly Christian in who we are and in what we do, and in so doing, allowing others to witness who Christ is and what Christ has done for us and is still doing.
In the Christian monastic tradition there are monks of differing varieties … some travel about from place to place, some live the solitary life as hermits, some live as mendicants or beggars who live with the poor,… but as Benedictines, we have chosen to be a communal Order, living together in stable communities. We share with one another what the Lord has provided by means of our own industry and our own labor, whether it be crops from the farm or goods from the workshops. And we are known for our ministry of hospitality … we open our doors to guests, those who can pay for their stay help provide for those who cannot.. Within the ethos of the Benedictine community there is the belief (hopefully lived out in our practice) that where the Lord provides, there is always enough! In lean times and in bountiful times the belief and practice is the same …“where the Lord provides, there is always enough.”
In seminary, I would now and then work construction on Saturdays to earn a few dollars. One specific work day I will never forget. I was late getting to the early morning car pool so I was not able to make a lunch to take with me. I figured I could survive one hungry day. At noon, the construction crew took its lunch break, sitting in the cool shade of a sprawling oak tree. It was at that time that something beautiful happened, something that became very much a part of my soul. Four young bearded fellows, members of a Pentecostal, mountain holiness Church, each in turn took a portion of their own lunch and without saying a word, shared it with me. These were Christian brothers who truly understood about the nature of the Bread of Life … where the Lord provides, there is always enough … that is, when one takes into account … that which might fall from the table.
In a culture which seems to fearfully believe that there is “never, never enough”, we need more Christian souls remembering … “that where the Lord provides, there is always enough.”
Brother Anthony of the Cross
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