Summary: It is hard to recognize your humility
I’ve read this passage from Mark literally 100’s of times and each time I keep coming back to the words, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.” But that’s the least of it because of the preceding verse, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs.” This shows Jesus in a very bad light for rejecting Gentiles. I mean, why would He speak to this woman in this way? Well, to fully understand this interaction one must look at how they referred to each other in those days. Jews generally referred to Gentiles as dogs. That’s right. As dogs. The Gentiles were not the chosen people. They were generally unclean simply because they didn’t have the washing rituals that was spoken about last Sunday. Their dietary habits were looked down upon. I mean, they ate bacon. Bacon. Can you even imagine it? So to a Jew, ALL Gentiles were dogs. Plain and simple.
But Jesus cut through this – albeit without some push back. He was bested by this Syrophoenician woman and, as a result, her child was cured of evil spirits. Only on a couple of occasions does Jesus back down to another due to their words. The one preceding this that comes to mind is when His mother wanted Him to fix the problem at the wedding in Cana. But what this interchange speaks about mostly, is humility. This kind of humility that allows another’s opinion to be right. Seems we have seen a lot of “UN”humility as of late but Jesus shows us that real humility is relooking at what one says and taking the course that it requires. Humility that allows us to say, “Yes – you are right and I bend to what you want me to do” Sort of like the story I’m reminded of ….
A very religious woman went into the local pet shop to buy a parrot for company.
She selected a beautiful bird, but the pet store owner said he didn't think she'd be happy with this particular parrot because he had belonged to a salty old sailor who used very bad language.
She replied that she knew with love and care she could break the bird of his bad habits and have a wonderful companion.
Well, the bird was not to be broken of his blue language and the woman had to hide him in the spare bedroom every time she had visitors.
Finally, in desperation she told the bird she was going to put him in the freezer for 10 minutes every time he used bad language.
Sure enough in just a couple of minutes the bird let out a string of obscenities.
She put him in the freezer with him hollering and yelling his head off.
After just a minute or two it got very quiet.....afraid that something bad had happened to the bird, she opened the door.
Out stepped the parrot, shivering and most pleasantly and politely he said, "Excuse my prior behavior, madam. I regret any dismay I may have caused you and promise never to use improper language again."
Well, the woman was thrilled to hear these promises and was about to say so when the bird interrupted to say "by the way, madam, what's the chicken in for?"
Humility. It comes in many shapes and sizes and, in this Gospel, can be simultaneous. The woman has to have some level of humility to go to Jesus to begin with and Jesus has to return that humility by recognizing the woman’s point and then acting on it. Humility comes from the Latin word for “humus” which means “of the earth” Now, coincidentally, Adam means the same thing. Of the earth. So, it would follow that to be truly human is to have true humility. Humility and us, we are of the same origin. So, what does humility really mean? Well, we get the word humble from it. Ever wonder how we came up with this stuff? The word for humble comes from “umble”, as in “umble pie”. There’s a lot of parallels between this “umble” and the world around us. You see, umble is the worst parts of the calf. The really nasty parts. The parts that normally would’ve been thrown away. The parts that you’d walk right by at the butcher counter. But, even these umble parts serve their purpose. They contribute to the over-all benefit of the calf. Without them, the calf couldn’t stand, couldn’t walk. Without them, the good parts wouldn’t be there.
But these umble parts become transparent after a while if you don’t pay attention. Sort of like the world we live in isn’t it? The really poor people would go and get these “umble” parts of the calf and make a pie out of it. They had humility whereas many of their brothers and sisters didn’t. The umble parts were beneath those other people. They were not “umble”. In many parts of England, today, you can still hear people referring to “he eats his umble pie” and they’re speaking about someone who’s so stuck on themselves that they take the best seats at the table. They invite only their friends, their brothers, their relatives and their neighbors within their personal circle. Never the poor, the lame, the cripple, or the blind. Never the outcasts, those who are outside their inner circle, the uncomfortable. The people who’ve become transparent. Same here in this Gospel. The Jews of the time would never have invited a Gentile to eat with them, become a part of community with them. It would’ve been outside the normal custom. But we’re called to invite those very people inside. To eat with them. To be around them. To be one with them. That’s our ecclesia. Our calling. But it’s a challenge and people are challenging too. They don’t always do what you expect of them and, sometimes, they become undependable. We can’t really trust what they’ll do next.