Jill Pirdas, church warden at Holy Trinity, has asked us to respond to offer further help to the charity that her brother supports in South India.
If we donate online now in sufficient numbers, the crowdfunding effect will enable the charity to do more work and have a more secure basis. Follow this link to find out more about how to give.
Here’s some more information about the charity, which will be familiar to many in Vence an Nice:
Our charity is an HIV-positive Women’s Association which prevents children being born with HIV and provides essential care for the generation who were not so lucky. Many, now adolescent, are traumatised by loss of one or both parents to HIV/AIDS and by the knowledge that they carry a life-threatening virus. They need counselling and support to cope with the medical, social and psychological impact of HIV combined with all the usual teenage concerns. We support 950 vulnerable children living with HIV in south India.
Reaching out to the ignored and outcast
The Holy Land is different from anywhere else that I have been. It is an extraordinary to walk in parts of the Old City of Jerusalem where Jesus and the disciples would have met. Venturing further afield and going up to the lake of Galilee and the north of the country is also fascinating.
On my first visit, almost thirty years ago, travel was relatively easy but on more recent visits it had become far more difficult. Walls and road blocks are a feature of the landscape as the Israelis restrict the movement of the Palestinians. Bethlehem, which was once easy to get to from Jerusalem is now very difficult to enter.
On one occasion, I drove back from Nazareth to Jerusalem in the dark. We were stopped frequently and initially regarded with suspicion by the soldiers at the road blocks.
In Sunday’s gospel, Jesus has undertaken a journey that many Jews would have regarded with suspicion. He has gone to Tyre, which was regarded by the Jews as the epitome of unfaithfulness and pride – a sort of first century Las Vegas.
Jesus was confronted by a situation which would have made him very uncomfortable and which would have been viewed by others with suspicion.
A Gentile woman, a Syro-Phoenician, asked him to heal her daughter. She bowed to him, which doesn’t seem odd to us but in Jesus’ time men who bowed to another man conferred honour. The opposite was true if a woman did so – if a woman bowed to a man she brought disgrace upon him.
Moreover, her pleading for her daughter was inappropriate: a woman was not to plead with a man for her daughter, since she was expected to have a husband who would put the case for her.
Further, it was not done for a rabbi – and Jesus was regarded as a rabbi – to speak directly to a woman. So, several taboos have been broken.
But this woman succeeds in compelling Jesus’s attention. She sets up a tension between the obligation to look after the widow and orphan (though for Jews this duty only applied to the plight of fellow Jews) and the custom that rabbis should not speak to women.
Their conversation uses language which is quite violent to our ears. Jesus, in effect, calls her a dog – unpleasantly close to our ears to very 0rude slang that adolescent boys might sometimes apply to girls. Really horrible and shocking language.
More is going on here than we quite realise. In Jewish society, dogs wandered the streets as there were no pet dogs. Only in Gentile society (that is non-Jewish society) were dogs kept as domestic pets, able to wander around the table hoping for scraps of food at mealtimes.
The woman cleverly refers to this in saying that even the dogs are allowed scraps. Jesus appreciates this and, in so doing, expands the range of his ministry and audience to include the Gentiles.
Strikingly, he does not even go to the sick daughter to heal her. At the end of his conversation with the woman, he simply informs her that the healing has happened.
The significance of the story for us is that Jesus transcends the barriers of prejudice and xenophobia – an important example in our era which is so affected by the mass movement of peoples.