I agree with Phil Bloom. I agree with the reflections and meditations and homelies found in the magazine today. They are well thought out and underscore the spiritual depth of the authors. I appreciate them all. They make me think and they make me reach out to God Himself. In that sense, I know that it is going to be a good weekend. I am going to add something to the weekend because I hardly ever am given the opportunity to meditate on the impact that the geography of the Gospels has on what it is that God is trying to tell us. Homelists don't consider it important, I guess.
This is the second Sunday that important revelatory spiritual events take place. None of them occur in the "Holy Land" but in The territory of the pagans, the "others", like the Greeks and the Romans. Last Sunday we heard the story of the Canaanite woman with the daughter possessed by demons. This Sunday we hear the confession of Peter. Next Sunday we are going to hear about Peter begging Jesus not to go to Jerusalem. Jesus is then going to tell Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan." Whoa! Where did that come from? Read on.
In these three Sunday stories, geography is important. Jesus is spending some time in the mixed territory of the Greek and Roman empires. There are very few Jews here (Hebrews). Jesus and His people are over 100 miles to the north of the spiritual heart of the Promised Land. The Temple is 4 or 5 days of foot travel away. The people who are approaching Jesus are "foreigners", not of the chosen people, yet they confess His Divine Power in front of His Jewish disciples. These disciples who are Orthodox Jews (Hebrews) of proper religion and blood. The "foreign" people stand up in front of Him and ask for what they need. They bargain with Him and they get what they request. Next Sunday, Peter, the tough guy, the ONE who has been told that he is the Rock, the foundation of the new community is going to act just like a real Jew, he is going to say, "Don't talk like that, nothing like that is going to happen to you." Yup, this is the same Peter who asked to walk on water but who doubted once his feet got wet. This is the same Peter who heard the Syro-Phoenician woman tell Jesus, "Even the dogs eat from the droppings of the king's table." All this is happening in territory that is not spiritually orthodox. Did Jesus make a mistake by coming here? NO. Jesus is the quintessential missionary. Son of David, Son of God does not camp out in Jerusalem (City of Peace), he grows up and preaches in the land of Israel, not in the land of Judah. He goes to Jerusalem to fulfill the law that says that all Jewish men must go to the Temple to pray at least once per year. The rest of the time He operates in the North, in Galilee. He spreads the message to the Chosen People and the "foreigners" in the North showing them that He is sent by the Father to EVERYONE, not just to the sons of Judah but to all the people of God. He shows them that the fisherman takes all that he catches on board and sorts it out when he gets to the dock. He teaches them that God chose them for a purpose, and the He is among them to teach them what the purpose is.
Finally, at the end He goes to Jerusalem and meets the rabid community of the Chosen People around the Temple. They capture Him and do Him in by using the Roman military to carry out the deed. This fulfills the history of the prophets sent by God to the Chosen people...they preached and were killed because of the hardness of heart of the people.
These Gospel stories are geography lessons. They are stories of revelation. They are also history lessons of where the Chosen People of God settled and how they related to Him. The people of the North (Israel) were considered to be hicks and red-necks by the snobs of the South (Judah).
Listen to the stories that are being recounted at the Sunday Masses this month. Matthew is telling us a lot. He is telling us that the revelation of God is not meant only for a select few, but for EVERYONE, circumcized or not; born in Judah or born in Syria, Phoenicia or Rome.
If you want to have a better understanding and a greater appreciation of the revelation contained in the Sacred Scripture, read the map every time you read the Bible. Try not to die before you get to meet Jesus on His home turf.
Remember that you heard it here. It will help you to hold back your tears at my funeral.