Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC
SUNDAY BIBLETALK
August 16th, 2020

Jesus the Holy Fool
Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, 1999

Jesus' miracles need to be seen as more than acts of physical healing but as events which symbolize an inner transformation, a coming to freedom. They are acts of liberation whereby the person healed is invited to a new way of being, to a lifestyle which, aligned with the reign of God, conflicts with the values of the establishment. Jesus' healing propels those he encounters onto
the Way of Paradox and all its uncertainties...

But while Jesus evidently had healing powers, these were innate rather than learned. Unlike the physicians of his time who had some knowledge of medicine and were skilled at prescribing salves for external maladies, Jesus was completely untrained. He had neither surgical skills nor, as far as we know, any background in diagnosing human ailments or prescribing treatment on the basis of physiology. As healer, Jesus was the Holy Fool who trusted that God's power alone would be enough for his work to be accomplished...

Jesus' ministry focused on raising people from the dust of their lives so that they could experience life as blessing. His purpose was not to draw attention to himself but to bring about God's reign, even if it meant tarnishing his image by associating with those of poor repute.
UPCOMING PRESENTATIONS

Theosophical Society,
Wheaton, IL
Thursday, Sept. 24th, 2020
7:00-8:30 p.m.
*virtual presentation

Institute for Life Coach Training
Wednesdays, Sept.23-Oct.28
5:00-6:30 p.m. CT
*virtual 10 hour course

Balancing Archetypes
Theosophical Society,
Wheaton, IL
Saturday, Sept. 26th, 2020
2:00-5:00 p.m.
*To be re-scheduled virtually

The Well Spirituality Center, LaGrange Park, IL
October 24, 2020
9:30 am-2:00 pm
*re-scheduled as a virtual presentation

A NEW WEBSITE & RESILIENCE QUIZ
Since so many people have lost their means of livelihood, I am offering life coaching to those dealing with career transitions. You can check out my Resiliency Assessment Tool on the home page of my new website:

FYI: My main websites remain


QUESTIONS
FOR REFLECTION
  1. Who are "your people" and whom do you exclude?
  2. How can you expand your social circle to include more people who are unlike you?
  3. If you look into you heart, what do you see there? What do you love and what would you like to change?

Greetings, Readers!

In many parts of the world-- especially Europe and Latin America--, August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary is a major holiday involving processions, fireworks, special devotions and much fanfare; in many countries, it is a public holiday which means that all businesses and government agencies are closed, making time for family gatherings and communal celebration. Though there is no biblical basis for this holiday, it is based on the tradition and the dogma (1950) that Mary, "having completed the course of her earthly life," was "assumed" into heaven and that her body therefore did not suffer the ravages of decay.

While the Feast of the Assumption is an expression of Marian devotion, it also has a symbolic significance, especially in times of conflict and division. Carl Jung points out that Mary's place "alongside the Trinity" was the answer to the deep longing for an intercessor and mediatrix-- for the presence of a heavenly Mother. This is why he considered the dogma "to be the most important religious event since the Reformation.” At the same, the glorification of Mary's humanity holds the promise that we, too, are destined for heavenly realms.

The danger here, of course, is that we dismiss our earthly life as a "vale of tears" and focus only on the world to come. That, I believe, is spiritually unhelpful. While "heaven" is our destiny, this world is where we presently have our being and where we learn how to be citizens of the world to come -- not by turning out backs on where we are now, but by making sure this world is habitable for all God's creation. This not only means establishing a just world order in which everyone has equal rights, but also protecting the planet and all her creatures. Distracted as we are by both pandemic and politics, are we ignoring what is happening around us -- the massive oil spill off the coast of Mauritius, for example, or the collapse of Canada's last fully intact ice shelf, or Chinese fishing fleets threatening the ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands?

Any spirituality that ignores our earthly origins is neither transcendent nor holy-- let us lift our eyes heavenward while tending to the Earth which is our present home.

Many Blessings!
Elizabeth

PS Try my spiritual self-assessment tool! After you take the Quiz, you will automatically receive a computer-generated diagram and explanatory comments regarding your strengths and "growing edges." I hope you find the Quiz useful!


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SCRIPTURE REFLECTION

When Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon,
a Canaanite woman of that district came to him, calling out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! 
My daughter is tormented by a demon.” 
But Jesus did not say a word in response. 
Jesus’ disciples urged him,
“Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 
He replied, “It is not right to take the children's food
and throw it to the dogs.” 
She said, “Please, Lord, even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from their master's table.” 
Then Jesus answered,
“O woman, great is your faith! 
Let it be done for you as you wish.” 
And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.
Matt 15:21-28
 
Reading the story of the Canaanite woman, I am struck by its similarities to Matthew's account of the healing of the centurion's servant in Matt 8:5-13. In both narratives, a Gentile approaches Jesus with the request that he heal someone close to them who is suffering -- the centurion's paralyzed servant, the Canaanite woman's demon-tormented daughter. Both the centurion and the woman are confident that he has the power to work healing miracles; and, in both instances, Jesus commends them for their faith, contrasting it to the lack of faith he has experienced among his own people. The message is clearly that Jesus' mission extends beyond national/ religious boundaries, especially in today's Gospel where Jesus is in the region of Tyre and Sidon, in southern Phoenicia. Mark's Gospel, in fact, places him in a house in Tyre and it is there that the woman falls at his feet and begs him to drive the demon out of her daughter (Mk 8:24-30).

Another point of interest is that the encounter with the Canaanite woman follows Jesus' response to the Pharisees and scribes who question why his disciples don't follow the prescribed purification rituals regarding food. His last recorded words before leaving Gennesaret for Tyre are significant: "The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile" (Mt 15:18-20).

To Jesus' contemporaries, the Cannanite woman would be considered "unclean"; she is both defiled and defiling, no more than a "dog." His disciples have no compassion for her and find her irritating; they urge Jesus to send her on her way so she will stop bothering them. Instead Jesus engages her in conversation which could be interpreted as "playful banter" for his disciples' edification. Far from being silenced or humiliated, the woman is quick to respond, picking up on the "dog imagery: "even the dogs eat the scraps..." She will not take no for an answer.

For Jesus, it is the heart that matters, not race, gender, religion, occupation, or other variables. "His people" are people of heart, not those who are "ritually pure," religiously observant, or culturally "in good standing." This gospel encourages us to examine our own "people": Are they those who look like us, think like us, vote like us? Are they those who reinforce our own attitudes and beliefs, or do they include the "differing others" who are unlike us in most things? Do we have room for centurions and Canaanite women in our own circle of friends -- or do we only welcome those who wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before meals?
IF YOU CAN'T FLY, TRY A ZOOM RETREAT INSTEAD!
If you have canceled your retreat because of COVID-19, you may want to think about a virtual alternative. I am available for customized group or individual "virtual retreats" (by Zoom). Please contact me by email for more information. Thank you!
SPIRITUAL DIRECTION AND LIFE COACHING BY PHONE OR ZOOM
This video explains my approach to this ministry, while my website provides further details as well. I work "in person" as well as remotely by phone, Zoom or Skype; I am also available to facilitate retreats for groups and individuals.
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart | www.elizabeth-annestewart.com | e.a.stewart@sbcglobal.net

C. All Photos by Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, www.artfulphotographer.com