In today’s encounter between Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman we can observe again the crossing of societal norms by both the woman and Jesus. The woman, very much like the woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years, was desperate and approached Jesus. She was willing to risk breaking the social taboo of speaking with Jesus so that her daughter could be healed.
Jesus meets her with the derogatory language of equating her with a dog, considered one of the most unclean of animals by Jews: “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs” (Mk 7:27). Jesus was to indeed come first to the Jews and then share his message with the Gentiles. This woman would have none of that, she wasn’t leaving without a healing for her daughter, even if that meant she was putting her life in danger. Her retort, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps”, emphasized this point. It was also the key that opened the door for the disciples and us to witness a consistent pattern with Jesus.
We saw the same situation with the woman with the hemorrhage (cf. Mk 5:25-34) in that both women had the faith and courage to approach Jesus. The outcome of this encounter was also similar to one Jesus had with another gentile, the Roman centurion, who said that he was not worthy for Jesus to enter under his roof. In both accounts, Jesus healed solely by his word from afar. What is important to Jesus is the person’s faith and belief that Jesus is who he said he is.
Do we have the courage, faith, and belief in Jesus as showed by the Syrophoenician woman in today’s Gospel? Are we willing to take the risk to cross our own societal norms to draw closer to Jesus? When we let nothing hinder our coming to Jesus, including relinquishing the reigns of being our own masters, acknowledging that God is God and we are not, believing that Jesus is truly the Son of God and that he is still present and active in our lives, miracles do happen! Jesus said that if we have faith but the size of the mustard seed, we can move mountains (cf. Mt 17:20).
If you or someone close to you are dealing with some conflicts, challenges, trials, or tribulations. If something, someone, or your own fear or anxiety is keeping you from making a deeper commitment to surrendering your life to Jesus, if there are opposing forces that feel as big as mountains, be not afraid and trust in Jesus. Bring your anxiety, fear, trials, and/or tribulations to him, lay your burdens at his feet, and take his hand. With Jesus all things are possible, we just need to have the courage to believe that Jesus is present with us in the midst our trials, that he has not left us as orphans. May we have faith that Jesus is who he says he is. Jesus the Christ, the Son of God our Savior and Redeemer, is present, is the kingdom of God at hand, and will see us through.
Photo: Small chapel at the front of my classroom at Cardinal Newman. May the light of the Gospel guide us each day!