Lessons for Proper 18, September 9, 2018

Proverbs 22;1-2, 8-9 ,22-23

Many of us know one or more of  the sayings in the ancient book of Proverbs, one of the “wisdom” collection of the Old Testament. Yet selections of the book are rarely heard in the Eucharist of today.  Writers may go to their bookshelves to find a proverb that illustrates a particular point.  Indeed, the Apostle Paul made often use of the collection.  Proverbs are meant to be pondered, one at a time.  And proverbs are essentially oral literature circulated by word of mouth.  The wisdom books, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Sirach, have little to say about the fundamental tenets of the Jewish people and their nation; instead the concentration is on the problems of life and how one should behave before God.

James 2:1- 10, 11-13, 14-17

In his general letter to the church, James is teaching what discrimination means in ordinary situations.  It is clearly a contemporary message.  Today, James interprets faith in Jesus Christ as requiring Christians to understand and provide for the poor of our immediate contact.  Making division in each situation we see in life leads to sin since it will direct our effort and material wealth to those of our clan and to those only of our favor.

Mark 7:24- 37

As Jesus moves about the extremities of Jewish land, his fame follows close behind him.  Healings of mental and physical ills were front page news, despite Jesus’ attempts to escape and be only with his disciples.  Today we have two miracle healings, one for a Gentile woman with a daughter beset with a demon; the other a man deaf and unable to speak clearly.  The first exorcism occurs at a distance without Jesus’ physical presence, but with knowledge that the child was made well.  The story contains a difficult saying – comparing Gentiles to dogs, but in its day, the words represented a well- known proverb, unlike our reading of it today.