Sunday’s sermon was about the two miracle stories in the gospel of Mark, 7:24-37. In retelling the stories, I found myself most moved by the ways Jesus got personal with the two people he encountered. First, the Syrophoenician woman. She challenged the assumption that “people like her” weren’t worthy of God’s attention, and Jesus agreed with her challenge. As a matter of fact, he found the challenge itself to be moving—enough so that he granted her plea for her daughter’s return to mental health. He was willing to enter her world of being on the margins and let her know that the marginal world is where God lives.
Then there was the deaf man who spoke with an impediment. Jesus entered right into his world, too. He stuck his fingers into the guy’s ears, then apparently spat onto his hand before touching the tongue that didn’t seem to work right. The man was healed when Jesus wasn’t afraid to enter into the stuff of his illness, to touch his hurt, to let him know that the world of illness is where God lives.
In the course of my study I was reminded of Mother Teresa, whose example was also one of a person who entered into others’ worlds, especially the world of the abandoned and dying. I also remembered a quote I’d read a couple of years ago when a biography was published. It’s from her own writings.
Where is my faith? Even deep down … there is nothing but emptiness and darkness … If there be God—please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul … How painful is this unknown pain—I have no Faith. Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal, … What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true.[i]
We don’t often expect someone like Mother Teresa, whose faith is known around the world, to express doubts about the existence of God. Yet here it is. A modern exemplar of faith, doubting. What do you make of that?
There are likely many things that could be made of it. But I find it hopeful. It shows that no matter how much we make over certain very spiritual people, they are just that: people. They are all just people. People who have the same struggles as the rest of us. They doubt, they worry, they feel overwhelmed or angry, lonely, overworked or underappreciated. It is in this world of doubt, worry and negative feelings that God lives.
It was to people like them—the Syrophoenician woman, the deaf man, Mother Teresa—and to people like us that Jesus came. He entered into their (our) worlds to show us that right here is where God lives.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2009
[i] Kolodiejchuk, Brian (2007). Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0385520379. .