20th Sunday Ordinary Time – Spiritual Alzheimer’s
Our mom died with Alzheimer’s back in ’89. Many of us know the cruel nature of the disease. We watch the person slipping away before our eyes even while the body remains intact, even healthy. The personhood just goes away, as it were. Vacant stare. “Do I know you?” Damn cruel.
It’s an apt metaphor for the Church today – spiritual Alzheimer’s. Bodies intact. Spirits ebbing away. Vacant stares. “Who am I?” Problem is, it’s not painful enough, this loss of Christian personhood as many of the young look to us older folks and see bodies full of forgetfulness.
This gospel passage gives us a picture of the disciples forgetful then and disciples without memory today. It’s painful. Yet it’s easy to ignore.
In the first place, the disciples urge Jesus to send the woman away because she’s shouting after us. “Us,” not Jesus. And as we saw yesterday, the disciples had taken up this habit of “sending people away.” The Greek, krazo, “to shout, cry out, scream,” lies at the center of this network.
Matthew 15:22f Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.”
In the second place, they forgot that they had just shouted out, cried out to Jesus in fear for their own lives. And Jesus saved their lives. Spiritual Alzheimer’s right here. It has to do with the reduced capacity most of us have to remember the fear or pain we were in when we shouted out… especially when we are dealing with someone else shouting out similarly.
Matthew 14:25f And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.
Seems to me, I ignore and neglect my wounded humanity so habitually, I have forgotten that place from which I connect most truly with another human being’s suffering. Forgetful of my suffering, I can easily forget theirs and blame them for not taking care of their own situation. And vice-versa.
Spiritual Alzheimer’s seems rampant today. Without this bit of humanity we compulsively forget, what can God conform to Christ? What divinize?