In Your Presence
August 17, 2014
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matt 15, 21-28
I want to talk about crumbs, leftovers, those little particles that tend to be brushed aside…or even intentionally discarded because they are seen as having no value. You know what I mean. Things like that last, bothersome spoonful of casserole that you look at and think: “What am I going to do with this? I can’t eat another bite but there’s not enough to save.” So you flip on the garbage disposal and wash the problem down the drain without giving it another thought. That is the image that the pagan woman we meet in this Sunday’s Gospel (Matt 15:21-28) used when asking for Jesus’s help. She begged for the scraps…crumbs…the leftovers not worth saving.
In my efforts to enter into this story, my first reaction was to marvel at her appreciation for the sacred. The reverence which she showed Jesus should have inspired the actual witnesses to the meeting, and should continue to inspire us today. We have become pretty “casual” in our lifestyle, to the point that the sense of the sacred is at risk. That is not a good thing, in fact, that is a very dangerous situation…losing a sense of the sacred. Consider the recently re-introduced practice of “purifying” all of the sacred vessels after Communion, in many parishes, even before the Mass is ended. Through this symbolic gesture, the Church is reminding us that Christ’s Body and Blood is truly present to us in the Eucharist and is so sacred that NO FRAGMENT of the Lord’s Body, and NO DROP of The Precious Blood should be lost or disrespected. Even the smallest particle of the Eucharist IS THE BODY OF CHRIST!
Sometimes we fail to recall, however, that the Lord is also present to us during the Eucharist, through the liturgical action at the Table of the Word…the Ambo. Many centuries ago, from a cave in Bethlehem, where he translated the Bible, St. Jerome explained it this way: For me, the Gospel IS the Body of Christ. Christ’s Body and Blood are really the word of Scripture, God’s teaching.” (Emphasis added)
So then, when we allow our minds to wander during the proclamation of God’s Word, it’s as if we are dismissing Jesus. When we aren’t fully present to The Readings, we miss an opportunity to have Christ be fully present to us. It’s as if we are brushing Him and His teachings aside like annoying crumbs.
On the other hand, when we take the opportunity to begin our day with the Scripture passages set out in Morning Prayer, we are nourishing and strengthening our spirits so that we are better able to face the challenges of the day ahead of us.
In spite of all that God has revealed to us through Christ…many do not seem to know what the pagan woman fully understood. She knew that even the briefest of contact, the smallest fragment, the scraps left over, hold the fullness of Christ’s healing power. What others might brush aside, she desperately sought.
The reverence of this pagan reminds us today, that it is as fitting and right to give the same attention and reverence to the Table of the Word as we give to the Communion Table. Moreover, even as we take pains to purify the sacred vessels, it is important for us turn to the Ambo with pure hearts, because when we hear God’s Word proclaimed, it is as if we become sacred vessels. When we hold The Living Word in our minds and hearts we are living chalices from which others can be nourished.