FEB. 11. ORDINARY TIME. (B) WK. 5. THU. MK. 7. 24-30
Jesus left Gennesaret and set out for the territory of Tyre. There he went into a house and did not want anyone to know he was there, but he could not pass unrecognised. A woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him straightaway and came and fell at his feet. Now the woman was a pagan, by birth a Syrophoenician, and she begged him to cast the devil out of her daughter. And he said to her, ‘The children should be fed first, because it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.’ But she spoke up: ‘Ah yes, sir,’ she replied ‘but the house-dogs under the table can eat the children’s scraps.’ And he said to her, ‘For saying this, you may go home happy: the devil has gone out of your daughter.’ So she went off to her home and found the child lying on the bed and the devil gone.
The woman in today’s reading was a pagan, an unbeliever, and she approached Jesus as such and sought his help for her daughter who “had an unclean spirit” and she “begged him to cast the devil out of her daughter.”
Her actions did not flow from Faith, but rather from her love of her daughter, which she revealed in the way she approached Jesus; - “falling at his feet”, and Jesus recognised both her love and her desperation, and had pity on her.
But in doing this he also wanted to teach her; - and us; - the importance of Faith, so he pointed out to her that she was a pagan by telling her: “The children should be fed first, because it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs”; - to people who did not believe!
This was the equivalent of asking her; - “why should I help you given that you are a pagan”;- but in her answer the woman acknowledged the truth of what Jesus had pointed out when she replied; - “yes, sir, - but the house-dogs under the table can eat the children’s scraps.”
So Jesus was faced with a mother who was motivated by love for her daughter, and who openly admitted she was also a pagan, and not worthy or deserving of the favour she was seeking when she referred to herself as a “house-dog”!
I think this woman represents the very significant number of people in the world who are “good people”, but who do not have the Christian Faith, and I believe the mercy and compassion shown by Jesus here will also be shown to many unbelievers when their life ends.
There are many reasons why individuals do not believe, not the least of which, as children, they were raised in a family, and an environment, where there was an absence of Faith and any acknowledgement of God.
This woman “loved” and “cared for others” and had a “humble heart” and, as a result, Christ showed her compassion and forgiveness, a situation I think will be emulated for many at the end of their lives!
I also believe that many baptised Christians will not receive this same Divine Compassion at the time of their death, with the reason being their lives did not bear witness to the same virtues displayed by this “pagan woman”! When judgement time comes the criteria will not be “Pagan” or “Christian”; - but rather how well we have “Loved” and “Cared For” others!!