#SharingSpit is the podcast for September 9, 2018. Would you let Jesus put his spit on your tongue? This has to do with more than just germs and being icky. Mom is involved. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Mark7 #Mark #Mother #SpitBath #Diaspora #Gentiles #BeingOpen #Healing #Mother
Full Text of Podcast, Open Here (For our Deaf and H/H Brethren)
For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 9/9/2018 The 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 7:24-37.
[Today I will be talking about only verses 31-37].
The other day, [a friend of mine] [Bob] reminded me of how when we were kids it was not uncommon for our mothers to give us what we generously call “spit-baths”. You know, when our mom would lick her finger or her thumb and wipe whatever sticky thing it was that we had on our cheek as a kid. Remember?
There was a certain permissibility of it. We hated it. We would dodge the thumb if we saw her coming at us. Yet, if she landed a successful “spit bath” attack, we would acquiesce. We knew, at least, it was our mom’s spit and not, say, our aunt’s spit rubbed on our face.
It would be something even worse if you [came to me, as your priest] [went to your priest] and he said, “Yes, I will heal you.” Then he stuck his thumb on his tongue and got a load of spit on it and then tried to apply it to where your body was ill. I am sure, “Ew!” and “Gross!” are going through your mind at this point.
Mom was allowed because there was a certain amount of intimacy and trust. You at least knew your mother was trying to make you presentable, albeit through disgusting means. The intimacy and trust were important. You knew her. She changed your diapers with some pretty gross stuff in them. She was there without thinking twice when you were sick and got your vomit on her.
There is another item here in the story that needs to be taken into account before we acknowledge that Jesus shared his spit with the man. It comes from the details of the story itself.
Jesus has just gone on a tour of Arab cities: Tyre, Sidon, and the Decapolis. He is in the latter part here, the Decapolis. This is not Jewish territory, it is Gentile territory. There were synagogues and Jews in these areas, but largely they were Gentiles, or non-Jews. They were people who were not thought to be part of the Covenant with Moses. The woman who tells Jesus that she will take the crumbs off the table of the Jews and the deaf and speech impaired man who is brought to Jesus by his friends, are, by conventional thinking, outsiders.
They are welcomed and accepted by Jesus, the woman after talking to him, the deaf and speech impaired man, on the spot. I have to make mention here that the problem with the man wasn’t that he wasn’t smart, nor that his life was less than ours, but that he wanted to be able to hear his friends. Some in the deaf community today find the idea that they need to be healed offensive. They have their own language and culture which does not require hearing, but for our story today, the man was willing to be made to hear.
So, what I am saying is that the fact this man is not a Jew is the equivalent of your mother giving a spit bath to someone from another neighborhood that you did not know. I know mothers who believe that “motherhood” is an office bestowed on them and therefore, they have license to give a spit bath to any child who needs it. Don’t you know those people? The issue still stands, that Jesus’ healing is the equivalent of putting his spit on the tongue of someone who is not part of the family. Of course, after he does it, the man is part of the family now.
Additionally, in the story, the people came to Jesus in an uproar. They were loud and noisy. Jesus had to take the man away from them to perform this healing. So, we know that the healing is not for show. Jesus didn’t get up on stage with a prayer towel and smack the poor guy in the head. (“Be heaaaaaaaal-ed”). This was a moment of focused care on Jesus’ part. It was not about his self-aggrandizement, as we know from Jesus telling them all to not say a word about the healing. This was about the man who was brought to be healed and about his relationship with Jesus Christ.
Every year, when we have the foot washing on Holy Thursday, we hear people grousing about the fact they have to display their foot to the world. We do it because Jesus commanded us to do it. Aren’t we glad that Jesus didn’t command the priests to take their own spit and put it on everyone’s tongue as a symbol of his healing?
Yet, just before this passage, there is the instruction of Jesus that it is not what goes in that defiles, but what comes out of the mouth that defiles. It would stand to reason then that what comes out of the mouth can also bless and heal. So, Jesus, stops, looks up to heaven to access the always open Father in Heaven. He calls down the power of the Holy Spirit which is within him and from the Heavens. He then takes spit from his finger and puts it on the tongue of the man who has the speech impediment. He puts his fingers in the man’s ears. The man is willing because he wants to be healed.
So, there are a couple of things going on here. Jesus declared all foods clean last week. This week, he extends the Covenant of Moses to all by including Gentiles/Arabs into his healing. Next, the man shows he is willing to be healed through the fact that he trusts Jesus to be intimate with him, intimate enough to allow Jesus to put his spit on his tongue. Then Jesus commands the ears, “Ephphratha!” or “Be opened!” The command struck me as a command to us. I had to ask myself, “Am I open enough to have Jesus put his spit on my tongue?” Are you that open to Jesus Christ?
Healing is not a one way street, usually. One is not healed unless the person who is healed stretches out their hand, is brought on a pallet, comes where they are not wanted, or leaves behind their expected role in society. There is an openness to the working of God that is required to be healed. There is a trust that must be present. There is a need for us to allow the God of the Universe to be intimate with us. We say that we eat his body in the form of a nicely sanitized wafer. We say that we drink his blood in the form of nicely fermented wine. It can almost numb us to the unfathomable reality that Jesus is intimately entering every particle of our being through our digestive tract and healing us.
Are we open to the idea of being healed by God on a daily basis? Are we open to being changed? Are we open to taking what we accept as our existence and have the Lord change us by giving himself to us intimately?
He says, “Ephphratha!” Be opened! Healing is for everyone. Ephphratha! Be opened! Where within us are we hiding from God? Where is there healing needed that we will not allow the Lord to spit on it? Where are we holding back in our belief, our trust, and our willingness for intimacy with God? Maybe that is why we are not being healed. Be opened. Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian