If I’m honest, there are several things I wish Jesus had never said or done. In last week’s Gospel, for example, did he have to bring up the snake on a pole? Did he really need to curse the fig tree for not having figs out of season? Did he have to call the Syrophoenician woman a dog? And why didn’t he just let those dang Greeks meet him?
Jesus’ response to the request of the Greeks sends such a bad message to the Church. He gets all theology-y. He gets all closed in with his small group. He gets all my-God-and-me-y what with the voice from heaven that sounds like a thunderclap. Rabbi Friedman says that you can tell a lot about a church based on its origin story. If it began out of conflict, it will be forever defined by conflict. If it began to serve a specific need, it will continue to do so, often to a fault (see most congregations built in post-WWII suburbia).
The Church universal has this high-profile, high-friction encounter between Jesus and the Greeks as part of its birth narrative, and for 2,000 years we’ve had to work against it. This non-engagement by Jesus is the foundation of the Gnostic heresy which plagued the Church for hundreds of years. It is the subtle background to every church that chooses to be the frozen chosen rather than engage with the community around it. It is one of those moments when we shouldn’t forget the larger context of Jesus’ ministry. We can’t ignore that he spent 3 years meeting with the outcast, the oppressed, and the needy. As disciples of Jesus, we should respond to “we wish to see Jesus” with “come and see.”
We should be out and about. We should be present to the needs of our communities. We should be showing people Jesus in our actions before they even ask to see him. We should, as the Turkey Take-Out folks say, “love them until they ask why,” and then be prepared to show them Jesus, the reason behind every good work, every act of charity, the very impetus to love.