I have just finished reading Walter Brueggemann’s book Interrupting Silence: God’s Command to Speak Out.In the first three chapters of this small volume Brueggemann guides the readerthrough the Hebrew Scriptures demonstrating how YHWH hears the groans of the people and commands prophets and psalmists to speak. The remainder of the book focuses on figures in the New Testament who refuse to keep silent. In chapter 4 titled “Jesus Rudely Interrupted”, we read about the Syro-Phoenician woman who wouldn’t allow her ethnicity, gender, or religion prevent her from speaking up on behalf of her daughter. The author shows how the importuning of this mother actually changes Jesus’ mind. Jesus tells the woman that he had come only for his Jewish race. But the woman persists, breaking the consensus that God’s food was only for Jews. Jesus did not defend privilege, he did not defend Jewish chosen-ness, and he did not insist that he was right the first time. “Because she broke the silence in a daring, insistent way that reeducated him, her daughter is set free, just as she had asked” (p. 52).
Was it the mother’s courage and passion that pushed Jesus’ ministry beyond Galilee? Yes, Jesus moved into the “region of Decapolis” and began healing in Greek territory among Gentiles. Similarly, the crowd tries to silence blind Bartimaeus, but he cries out “more loudly” not for alms but for complete restoration. Again Jesus hears.
What I appreciate most about this book is the emphasis on how silence protects privilege and why the privileged are often silencers. Written in 2018, this book is apropos to our political, social, economic and religious systems.
The reader reflects: How are governments, churches, and laws silencing persons on the margins? How would Jesus respond today? We need to ask “What would Jesus do?”
Written by Sister Mary Valerie Schneider, SND
Originally published on October 6, 2018 on the Blog of the Sisters of Notre Dame, Toledo, OH