August 8, 2018
Feast of St. Dominic
Feast of St. Dominic
DVUSA Orientation Commissioning Mass
Mariandale Retreat Center
|DVUSA Codirector Allison Beyer|
In today’s Gospel (MT 15: 21-28) we meet a woman who has a name but her name was not recorded. Her name, like millions of women before and after her, is lost to us. Her actions and impact are not. It is precisely because of her audacity and persistence that she is remembered and recorded in our Holy book.
[Let’s recap; in 1-2 minutes in your own words tell the person next to you what you just heard in the Gospel. Take turns. The first person to listen will then add anything that the first person might have forgotten or left out.]
When I realized this was the Gospel for today I thought “Oh no! This is my least favorite Gospel!!” That’s why I thought we could start by looking at it together-- to practice bringing things that are difficult to our community, to practice our Dominican value of study and contemplation in community.
I’ll share with you how I hear this Gospel. First, everytime I hear or read this passage, I feel heavy in my heart, anxious in my stomach. It is an uncomfortable scene and one that is difficult for me to return to.
The woman, who has a name but we do not know it, goes to Jesus on behalf of her daughter who is being tormented by a demon.
Sometimes, some days, some years--we are this woman. We are desperate for healing, for answers, for action. Our desperation and love for another or our own very lives makes us bold. We do not shrink before a crowd of critics. We would walk any mile, go any distance, speak out and advocate until we make the need heard and known.
Call to mind a time when you were desperate on behalf of another or yourself. Remember how this desperation feels in your body. Your head. Your chest. Your gut. Your hands.
Sometimes, some days, some years--we are the daughter. We are utterly vulnerable. We are dependent on the ability, privilege, voice, decision, power of someone else. We are dominated by brokenness. Physical challenges, depression, anxiety, rage, grief, illness, exhaustion, poverty, marginalization. Perhaps we are even unable to seek the help we so desperately need to be well, to be integrated. We rely on the assistance of of another to get by. It is difficult to imagine in the thick of our brokenness that we won’t always be tormented day after day. Joy--the joy that we hear of in the first reading (JER 31:1-7), praising God with tambourine and dance, is unfathomable, out of reach. If we had experienced it before, it is now nothing but a memory.
Call to mind a time when you were tormented by your brokenness. Remember how this feels in your body. Your head. Your chest. Your gut. Your hands.
The woman goes to Jesus on behalf of her daughter. She is ignored.
He doesn’t even respond.
The disciples are annoyed. The woman won’t stop talking, trying to get to Jesus, making a scene. She is not even Jewish. Who does this woman think she is?
Sometimes, some days, some years--we are the disciples. We find ourselves in a position of power, of security. We belong to the majority group, our identity is valued and protected. We are able to determine who is allowed “in” or “out” of our group. We cling to this identity because it is comfortable, because it is familiar, because it is safe. If we insulate ourselves, we can maintain some semblance of peace, order and stability.
Call to mind a time in your life when you were comfortable in you your security and opted to tune out or avoid others different from yourself. Remember how living in a defensive state of fear and protection feels in your body. Your head. Your chest. Your gut. Your hands.
The disciples decide to get rid of the problem--the woman is the problem. Disrupting their peace and mission. The woman persists.
Jesus, the Good Teacher, finally responds.
“I’ve got other things to do.” “I’m too busy.” “Your daughter is not my concern, not my problem.”
Sometimes, some days, some years--we are Jesus here. We are focused, determined, heaven-bent on fulfilling a challenging plan that demands all of our attention and energy so as to not become disheartened or back out. We have carefully, and maybe even painfully, discerned our path and we will be undeterred until we reach our goal. Our resolve is strong and our vision myopic. It is nearly impossible to take in new information, so set are our eyes on the end goal. We see things and people outside the scope of our vision as distractions and setbacks.
Call to mind a time in your life when you were determined and unmoving. Remember how this feels in your body. Your head. Your chest. Your gut. Your hands.
The woman, who has a name but we do not know it, persists. Jesus compares her to a dog. The woman notes that, actually, she is being treated as even less than a dog--so stingy are the disciples, and most devastatingly, Jesus, in responding to her need.
And Jesus perhaps is shocked by her words, her character, her audacity to tell the truth and shatter the blinders he was using to dismiss her. This is a conversion moment for Jesus, one of the most intensely human portraits of Jesus. In this moment, Jesus sees the woman. He hears her. Her interruption allows Jesus to wake up and to respond with compassion, to widen his circle, to broaden his mission, to adjust his understanding of his own calling.
Sometimes, some days, and, if we are so very blessed, some years--we are Jesus in this moment, after seeing and hearing and taking seriously a woman whose name we do not know. We are Jesus, breaking out of ourselves. We are able to see the truth of love as expansive; we recognize that when we recognize the dignity of one, it does not subtract or negate the dignity of another. We are arrested in our tracks, convicted by the truth of our own indifference, willing ignorance, complicit bias, and we are compelled to cross and dismantle previously established borders. We wake up and see with startling clarity the actual person who is front of us, who has been asking for our attention, our companionship, our gifts, our belief. We wake up and we move. The best apology is changed behavior. Jesus owns his freedom to change, to choose a new response, to upend old patterns, to begin a new relationship. He pays attention. He is humbled.
Call to mind a time in your life when you felt convicted, converted, called to action. Remember what it feels like to accept a new truth, to take on a new reality, to respond with your life. Remember what it feels like to grow, to expand, to give, to love. In your head. Your chest, Your gut. Your hands.
Dominican Volunteers will spend this next year dedicated to the four pillars of Prayer, Community, Ministry and Study. Our hope is that in relationship this year you will remember the times that you yourself have been the daughter, the woman with a name no one remembered, the disciples. And that when you encounter the daughter, the woman, or the disciples in someone else, you remember the example of Jesus, of Dominic. We pray that you allow yourself to hear the stories of the students, the parents, the survivors, the abusers, the children, the hungry, enter into your own story, disrupt the path you “thought” you were on. Allow their story to enter yours so much that it changes yours as you live it. We pray that you are transformed by these relationships and the ever-continued awakening to the truth of our interconnectedness and the ever-present opportunity for change.
‘The Heart of Ministry is Relationship.' Jesus knew this. The woman and her daughter reminded him. Dominic knew this. That is why St. Dominic traveled by foot--to stay physically and literally grounded by putting himself in a position that would allow him to encounter others on his way. His life invited this kind of relational interruption. He knew that the destination was never more pressing than the person in front of him in any given moment, and so he chose to live in a way that would increase opportunities for connection and an expansion of shared wisdom, shared truth.
We give thanks today in this Eucharist for the encounter with one another made possible by our retreat here at Mariandale. We give thanks to the Dominican sisters who inspire and make possible DVUSA, and especially for the sisters that open their homes to the volunteers. We give thanks with hearts full of hope and eager anticipation for the 5 newest Dominican Volunteers and their commitment to respond to the Gospel with their lives.