We often differentiate among people by focusing on national borders. The question of the status of immigrants or refugees is a daily discussion on news programs and in the halls of Congress. The question of how “they” are supposed to relate to “us” and vice versa is posed in simple language that assumes national borders can give us essential information about what is in another person’s heart and mind. Unfortunately, these ways of thinking are nothing new.
Jesus himself crosses a border at the beginning of today’s reading as he leaves Galilee and enters the Phoenician region of Tyre. There he is a stranger and a noncitizen. A woman—a citizen of the nation where Jesus is visiting—asks him for help. Jesus, surprisingly, relates to her through the usual differentiation based on region. He claims that her daughter has no share in his healing ministry because she is not Jewish.
The woman, however, knows that borders have little to do with loving a child, with knowing heartache, or with needing help. These qualities are part of being human and do not depend on nationality, ethnicity, or race. She contradicts Jesus’ assessment of the situation, and he eventually capitulates. Her only concerns are her daughter’s needs and Jesus’ ability to heal. Nothing else matters. Nothing.
We erect walls and borders and designations to separate ourselves from our neighbors, but our relationship with God demands that we see one another as persons with needs. As Christians we claim to follow the works and teachings of Jesus. We are called to act as Jesus does in this passage: to accept criticism, recognize our mistakes, and meet the needs of those in front of us.

Lord, help us to learn what Jesus learned: Borders do not separate us; we are all your children. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Mark 7:24-37

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Lectionary Week
September 3–9, 2018
Scripture Overview

It has become an uncomfortable subject for many in our society, but God does have ethical standards. The author of Proverbs declares that those who act unjustly, particularly if they oppress the poor, will provoke God’s judgment. The psalmist repeats the refrain that God blesses the righteous but is not pleased with those who choose a consistent lifestyle of rebellion against God. James challenges us practically on this point. Do we judge people by their wealth or status? This is not from God. Truth faith shows no partiality and prompts action. Jesus models this in Mark when he heals two Gentiles. Jews and Gentiles generally remained separate (an ancient form of racism), but Jesus did not discriminate based on their ethnicity. He cared only about their hearts.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

• Read Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23. How has God shown you that there is no difference between persons who are rich and persons who are poor?
• Read Psalm 125. When have you seen righteousness in someone your church or community has labeled “wicked”?
• Read James 2:1-17. How do your works support your faith in God?
• Read Mark 7:24-37. God calls us to love all our neighbors, no matter their abilities or place of origin. How can you be a good neighbor to those your community has excluded?

Respond by posting a prayer.

I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.