From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre.[a] He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Sir,[b] even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then Jesus[c] ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” – Mark 7:24-37
In verse 37, people were overwhelmed with Jesus’ work and said, “He has done everything well.” Hmm … How am I at doing everything well?
As I prepare for my second Transforming Community retreat in late October, I am reading The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser. It’s a great book. While reading this Mark passage, I immediately thought of Father Rolheiser’s words on the nonnegotiable essentials for Christians… the four essentials for those who follow Christ to do things well. We need to remember to do more than simply admire Jesus, we must imitate him. How shall we imitate him so that we do things well? Father Rolheiser suggests the following four principles.
- We need a life of private prayer and private morality.
Private prayer and personal moral integrity in things, even in the smallest private affairs are things that Jesus makes nonnegotiable within the spiritual life. He asks us to “pray in secret,” to have a private, personal relationship with him and through him with God.
- We must be concerned about social justice.
Jesus makes it clear throughout the gospels there can be no real relationship with him when the poor are neglected, and injustice abounds. When we make spirituality essentially a privatized thing, cut off from the poor and the demands for justice, that are found there, our relationship with Jesus turns into simply, private therapy.
- We should live a life by being grateful.
Sanctity has to do with gratitude. Following Jesus is fueled by gratitude, nothing more and nothing less. Here Rolheiser quotes Gustavo Gutierrez and writes, “our task as Christians is to transform the world through love and justice, but he is clear that we will not succeed in this if our actions issue forth from anger or guilt. Only one kind of person transforms the world spiritually, someone with a grateful heart.
- We need to crave being part of a community.
Jesus teaches us clearly that God calls us, not just as individuals, but as a community and that how we relate to each other is just as important as how we relate to God.
Moreover, for Jesus, loving one’s neighbor is not an abstract thing. He tells us that anyone who claims to love God who is invisible but refuses to deal with a visible neighbor is a liar, for one can only really love God who is love if one is concretely involved with a real community on earth. For a Christian, concrete involvement within a historical community of faith (being a part of church) is a nonnegotiable within the spiritual life.