Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: 1Kngs 11:4-13
When Solomon was old his wives had turned his heart to strange gods, and his heart was not entirely with the Lord, his God, as the heart of his father David had been. By adoring Astarte, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom, the idol of the Ammonites, Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not follow him unreservedly as his father David had done. Solomon then built a high place to Chemosh, the idol of Moab, and to Molech, the idol of the Ammonites, on the hill opposite Jerusalem. He did the same for all his foreign wives who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods. The Lord, therefore, became angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice (for though the Lord had forbidden him this very act of following strange gods, Solomon had not obeyed him). So, the Lord said to Solomon: “Since this is what you want, and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I enjoined on you, I will deprive you of the kingdom and give it to your servant. I will not do this during your lifetime, however, for the sake of your father David; it is your son whom I will deprive. Nor will I take away the whole kingdom. I will leave your son one tribe for the sake of my servant David and of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”
Gospel: Mk 7:24-30
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.
FAITH IN JESUS SUPERSEDES RACE: The Pharisees and scribes, experts in Law and trained apologists, try their best to defeat Jesus in argument, but they fail desolately. In today’s Gospel we see a simple pagan woman, a Syrophoenician by birth, apparently winning the argument with Jesus in a Gentile territory. In fact Jesus challenges her faith and thus provides an opportunity for her to successfully prove her faith in him. In yesterday’s Gospel Jesus declared all food clean. In today’s gospel he declares that what matters is not race or community within which one is born but faith in him. Are we ready to follow the standard of Jesus? Is our faith so profound that it enables us to transcend the differentiating and isolating norms as well as the exclusive terms like ‘my clan, my tribe, my race etc.? Or shall we accept to diswayed from God’s ways like Solomon was?
GOD’S CHALLENGING WAYS: “God shows no partiality” (Rom 2:11). It is with this understanding that we are often unpleasantly surprised by the apparent arrogance with which Jesus responds to a gentile woman who begs for help. The initial response of Jesus is very disheartening, and even perhaps humiliating. The intention of Jesus surely was neither to deprive the woman of the favors she was seeking nor to humiliate her. But he wanted to give a lesson to her and to the listeners a message: God’s grace cannot be taken for granted. People must be well disposed to receive God’s grace it. The woman in the gospel proves herself to be worthy of the grace of God by her humble and persistent confession of faith. This faith enabled her to overcome the obstacle in receiving God’s blessings that she wanted.
SHOW YOUR SUNNY SIDE: For the Jews, there were only two groups of people: Jews; the people of God, and the nations; the pagans. The Jews went a step further to imagine themselves as sons of God, and pagans, just dogs. Against this background we understand the words, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (Mk.7:27). Jesus tests the woman’s faith with the sharpest of words. On her part the woman’s faith is above board. Her words show a foundation of solid belief. A foreigner, an outsider yet she knows that it is from Jesus alone that such help is possible. A serious commitment to this young Rabbi’s teaching and faith in his person gets her what she desired. Worthy results do not sprout out of the ground like daisies and lilies. Real results spring from struggles and grow from problems. If only our Christian faith would be freed from doing just the minimum; if only we could commit ourselves more deeply to God, we could demonstrate a life that invites Christ to the world.