Jesus went to the district of Tyre. He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it, but he could not escape notice. Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied and said to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.” When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone. (Mark 7:24-30)
At first glance, this Gospel might seem harsh but, in fact, it is tender and adds another dimension to our understanding of faith.
While we cannot know exactly what Jesus was thinking, it is clear that when approached by the Syrophoenician woman, Jesus’ immediate response is to appeal to the limits of his mission, his call to serve his own people. In Matthew’s version of this story, Jesus begins by saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24).
But she still didn’t quit. She approached Jesus now that he was speaking to her, fell down before him in homage, and said, using one of the most powerful words in any language: “Lord, help me!” And Jesus, to help her to continue to grow in faith, told her with the typical vocabulary with which Jews and Gentiles would refer to each other, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” But she still didn’t give up. She reminded him that he was the Good Shepherd even of puppies. “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Jesus was amazed at her persevering faith and gave her the greatest compliment in Sacred Scripture: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish!” And at that moment her daughter was healed. She had been helped to become great in faith precisely by Jesus’ testing.
Faith. One word. A word that has been written about throughout history. A word that is not only foundational in a discussion of theology and religion. But a word that has become diluted by humankind because it has become a part of our vernacular. Politicians use. Coaches use it. Parents use it. Commercials use it. . . and on and on.
But you and I have an avid interest in it because we believe in Him and want to actualize his faith in our life.
Actualize his faith in our life.
But that actualization does not come easy. To be faithful is not a thing merely of the mind, but of one’s whole life. To be faithful means to seek to love God with all one’s heart, mind, soul and strength. Faith isn’t a once-and-for-all gift that just grows on its own. It’s a gift of God that grows also in response to acts of faith in response to tests, like we see with the pagan mother today. We need to persevere in faith, to continue to live by God’s wisdom, to continue to inform and follow a conscience well-tuned to God’s voice.
That is the nature of faith. It’s not confined to a prayer. It’s not confined to a building. It’s not confined to one denomination. It can’t be any of those because true faith is alive, it’s universal and it’s a constant journey. It grows as we grow both in our knowledge of Him and as we live out that knowledge in our daily life.
Faith is a gift of God that grows also in response to acts of faith in response to tests, as we saw with the gentile mother today. We need to persevere in faith, to continue to live by God’s wisdom, to continue to inform and follow a conscience well-tuned to God’s voice.
All of us – ALL – are offered a seat at the table. All of us gave been graced with the gift of faith. Each of us needs to pursue it, grow it, inculcate it so that we may know the other precious gift – the gift of eternal life.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, your love and mercy knows no bounds. May I trust you always and never doubt your loving care and mercy. Increase my faith in your saving help and deliver me from all evil and harm.”
Jesus rewards a Gentile woman for her persistent faith and for her affectionate love. She made the misery of her child her own and she was willing to suffer rebuff in order to obtain healing for her loved one. She also had indomitable persistence. Her faith grew in contact with the person of Jesus. She began with a request and she ended on her knees in worshipful prayer to the living God. No one who ever sought Jesus with faith – whether Jew or Gentile – was refused his help. Do you seek Jesus with expectant faith?