The Gospel according to Mark (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.
Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, I come before you today in my need. Help me to bring to my prayer today what I most need, what I most desire, even if I think or feel that it is impossible. Help me to put aside any rationalism or skepticism in your power, your grace, or your interest in my life. I want to be totally open to your goodness and grace.
Encountering Christ: As a young child growing up in East Los Angeles (Boyle Heights) I knew what is was to go without. Beyond the bare necessities, food and shelter, we did not expect much else. As I grew, I realized that nothing was going to be handed to me and that I would have to work for what I needed. But that did not stop me from dreaming of bigger things. There were times I faced odds that were not in my favor and either had to put my shoulder into the challenge or give up. Through the grace of God, persistence, and opportunities I have been blessed with much more than I could ever have dreamed of as a child.
As Christians we profess to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and trust that God will provide for our needs. However, and unfortunately, we can become narrow minded and hard of heart in thinking that anyone who is not a Christian is not worthy of God’s attention much less his grace and salvation. Our church tradition included much dialogue and teachings that seemed to exclude those outside of the “Church” and so in jeopardy of losing salvation. A more current approach has included language that affirms the church as the “Deposit of Faith” and the “Church founded by the followers of Jesus” but with an open heart and mind to all others of different faith expressions and approaches to the truth, the sanctity of life, and the dignity of all human beings. Jesus came to save all.
The woman who approaches Jesus knew that because she was not a Jew she would not find favor in coming to Jesus, a Jew, who was gaining prominence and recognition for what he was doing and saying. Driven by the love of a parent, and her recognition that Jesus was someone who could help her daughter she asked for what she needed even though she was not welcome.
The exchange between the woman and Jesus is a bit too complex for this brief reflection however there is one thing that is made perfectly clear. That the mercy of God through the healing touch of Jesus met the love and faith of a mother regardless of her cultural identity. What she brought to Jesus is what God offers all of us, an opportunity to respond to love with love. By overcoming the stigmas and challenges of not belonging she allowed herself to become vulnerable for the sake of another.
Faith is expressed in many wonderful and beautiful ways. When we allow ourselves to shed all that puts us outside of God’s mercy then we can begin to receive the grace God so wants to give us so our faith can move mountains.
Closing Prayer: Dear God, please help us to realize the potential of your mission by not limiting it with our personal points of view that can limit your plan for all. We are all your children, created in your image, and therefore worthy of your mercy and love. May we continue to grow in knowledge and understanding of who you are, how much you love everyone, and how we can share that love for the sake of your kingdom.
Action for the Day: Search your past and remember a time when you treated someone different in a way that you are not proud of. Ask yourself if you have grown since then and changed. If not, pray for the grace you need and do something about it.