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)
Much has been written about this parable. Biblical scholars have spent a lot of time parsing the words in order to have a clear understanding of it.
If we go to Matthew’s account of this incident, he gives us a slightly longer version of Jesus’s answer in which Jesus explains his meaning: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” Jesus concentrated his ministry on Israel, for all sorts of reasons. He was sent to show Israel that he was the fulfillment of all Scripture’s promises, the fulfillment of all the prophets, priests, and kings, the fulfillment of the temple. He said as much to the woman in his “parable” (riddle, almost) about children and dogs.
She in turn took that parable and turned it back to Jesus: even while the children eat at the table, the dogs are fed, too, by the crumbs. She was not turned away by an answer from Jesus that she did not entirely understand; she embraced it, in faith, and responded as best she could. Jesus saw her faith and blessed her.
When hard times and illness confront us, we find our faith challenged. Many leap to blaming God for not making a situation better or an illness healed.
But 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, as we saw 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.
It’s only until you realize that you have no leverage in your position before God that you will finally begin to hear and understand His voice and call on your life–just like the Gentile woman who had nothing to offer Jesus–to lean on His grace alone.
If we are open to it, we grow in faith every day. Each event has a lesson in faith for us. Those events can be joyous, can be painful, can be sorrowful. But in each of them, we need to seek out Jesus. Even when the event foes not end the way we wanted, Jesus was and is still there. To strengthen, to console, to lift up, to be our companion. Christians believe that with a passion.
In every circumstance we have the freedom to choose, the freedom to believe that God is real and present. We can choose to remain open to that presence. In every circumstance we have the freedom to live with love, with justice with integrity. Although we cannot always control what we must face in life, we can choose how we will live life.
Decide today to believe that God is active in this moment and that God is leading you to eternal joy.
Jesus is worth everything. Do not let any problem, anyone’s disapproval, or even what seems a divine rebuff itself, distract you from pressing in and seeking God with all your heart.
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 praises 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?