Sunday, August 16, 2020

Messy Food, Mercy Table

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Readings: Isaiah 56:1,6-7; Psalm 66(67):2-3,5-6,8; Romans 11:13-15,29-32; Matthew 15:21-28

Picture: cc Amanda Westmont

My dear friends, do you like messy food? Food that can never stay obediently in one place? Like a delicious bowl of laksa, for example, which you can’t truly savour without splattering gravy all over yourself, and perhaps onto your neighbour as well. Or a sloppy hamburger, the juicy contents of which you can never quite manage to keep from falling out onto your plate, or into your lap, however hard you may try. And yet, true lovers of laksa and hamburgers don’t let such things discourage them. They understand that messiness is part of what makes their favourite food so enjoyable.

Perhaps that brave Canaanite woman in the gospel is thinking of food similar to these, when she begs to be fed from a table to which she has not been invited. Or so it seems at first. When Jesus tells her that he was sent to the lost sheep of the House of Israel, and that it is not fair to throw the children’s food to the house-dogs, she still insists on enjoying the scraps that fall from their master’s table. Clearly, she believes that the food she is seeking is so messy to eat that even the scraps that fall unavoidably from the table will be large enough to satisfy her hunger, to meet her need.

So what is this deliciously messy food? … We find the answer in the first words the woman addresses to Jesus. The reading translates them as Sir, Son of David, take pity on me… But in the Greek text, the woman utters words similar to those we used earlier, in the penitential rite, Eleeson me Kyrie. Have mercy on me, Lord.

Mercy is the food that the woman begs from Jesus in the gospel. And, coincidentally or not, mercy is also the word that appears no less than four times in the second reading. Mercy is what God offers to both Jew and pagan alike. For St Paul, it seems as though God’s mercy is so messy, that its morsels can’t be prevented from falling off the table, first from the Jews to pagans like us, and then back to the Jews again.

The messiness of God’s mercy is, of course, shown most clearly in the Body of the Crucified and Risen Christ. The same Body that is broken to feed us at this Eucharist, and into which we are transformed, as we leave this holy place. Isn’t this how God fulfils the promise made to faithful foreigners in the first reading? To bring them to God’s holy mountain, and to make them joyful in God’s house of prayer?

My dear friends, like a delicious bowl of laksa, or a juicy hamburger, mercy is a messy food. To truly enjoy it, you cannot help but spread its sloppy goodness to others, especially those who need it most. Isn’t this a timely reminder for us now? In this time of crisis, it’s surely important for us to care first for those with whom we have a closer connection – our family, our community, our country… Even so, perhaps we also need to consider how to allow our blessings to overflow to feed others too who may be hungry.

Sisters and brothers, what must we do to better enjoy the messiness of God’s mercy, and to share its tasty goodness with others today?

No comments:

Post a Comment