August 20, 2017
After the death of Moses, Joshua leads the Israelite people across the Jordan River to Jericho. Here the aspiring Hebrew Nation engages the local Canaanites for possession of the land. Animosity between Canaanites and Jews goes back a millennium. It is surprising that Jesus withdraws to the region of Tyre and Sidon -- a Canaanite district. A Canaanite woman dares to approach Jesus and cries out: “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” His disciples, likely uneasy about being away from home, attempt to shoo her away but she persists. Jesus replies to the woman’s plea: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” She pleads: “Lord, help me.” He responds (unkindly to our ears): “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Not to be outdone she says: “Please, Lord, for even dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Jesus is so impressed that he acquiesces to her request: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” Jesus heals her daughter. Jesus crosses an ethnic and religious boundary and chooses not to exclude the woman and her daughter from the bounty of God’s mercy. Jesus fulfills the vision of Isaiah. St. Paul will follow Jesus’ lead as an apostle to the Gentiles.
We are deeply troubled by the violence that ensued when white supremacists, neo-Nazis and members of the Klan descended on Charlottesville, Va. What deeply disturbs us as a nation is their explicit denial of the dignity and humanity of other people.
Although the News on Wednesday highlighted the confrontation in Charlottesville and exposed moral deprivation, bigotry and prejudice, there were two articles that revealed our higher angels and aspirations. One is about a famous whiskey (Jack Daniels) and another is about a Marine and a Japanese flag.
Fawn Weaver, an African-American, real estate investor and author, discovered the true master distiller of Jack Daniel’s is not Jack Daniel, a white man. He was the apprentice. Nathan “Nearest” Green, a black man and slave, was the master distiller. After doing considerable research, interviewing Green’s descendents, collecting 10,000 documents and even purchasing the farm and land where Nearest Green and Jack Daniel first distilled whiskey, Weaver is now able to tell the full story. Mark McCallum, President of Jack Daniel’s Brands, Lynchburg, Tennessee met for six hours with Fawn Weaver. He listened, reviewed her material and vowed to share Nearest Green’s legacy in promoting Jack Daniel’s Whiskey.
73 years ago, Marvin Stombo, a Marine, from Missoula, Montana, fighting on the Island of Saipan, stumbled across the dead body of a Japanese soldier. Tucked in his pocket was a “good luck flag” signed by his Japanese family and friends. Marvin kept the flag as a souvenir but in the back of his mind was the thought that one day he would return it to the young man’s family. Marvin had displayed the flag in his home. The Japanese soldier’s name was Sadao Yasue. On Tuesday, the 72nd Anniversary of Japan’s surrender, Marvin Stombo kept his promise and presented the flag to Sadao’s younger brother and older sister. Brother and sister buried their faces in the flag and then thanked Marvin. It was the first time Yasue’s family learned what happened to him. His younger brother remembered what Yasue had whispered to him: “It seems that they are sending me off to a remote island in the south ocean. I will probably not come back alive so please take care of our parents well.”
Like Jesus, Fawn Weaver and Marvin Stombo, bridge the divide that so often divides.
Transfiguration of the Lord
21 Sunday Ordinary