Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, February 13
In the Walk of Faith Which You and I Travel Each Day Through Life, May We Always Seek Out Jesus with an Open Heart, with an Expectant Faith and a Joyful Hope.
“Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”
Every now and then, we come across a Scripture passage, which on its surface, defies reasonable explanation. Yet, when we dig more deeply into the history of what was said, we can then begin to gain a greater clarity and a deeper understanding of a very difficult passage for one to hear.
In order for us to better appreciate Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel Reading, we need to first understand the mission for which Our Lord was sent by the Eternal Father. In Matthew’s Gospel regarding this same incident, Our Lord says to the woman “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
And in a previous chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, we read, “Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus, ‘Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town; Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’”
And Paul himself explains, in his Letter to the Romans, that salvation through Jesus Christ came first for the Jews, then the Gentiles.
Our Lord was initially limiting His mission to those who worshiped the One True God, His Father, for we must remember that His mission on Earth lasted for but a brief three years, and His mode of transportation was primarily on foot, donkey or possibly camel. It was not that He could just “hop” into a car and zoom off to the next city!
Traveling from one place to another oftentimes took several days, and the conditions for traveling were oftentimes very hostile – the heat of the day under the desert sun, and the cold nights in the open desert environment. Such conditions would often make traveling very tiresome.
Ultimately, the responsibility of fulfilling our Lord’s command before His Ascension into Heaven, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” was left to His Apostles and those whom they appointed. For we read in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles about how God’s Truth was spread throughout much of the Gentile communities.
“…it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Difficult words to hear, until we begin to understand them better.
The Greek woman, whom we read about in today’s Gospel and whose daughter was possessed by a demon and freed from its possession by our Lord, was what was called a Phoenician, from the land of Canaan, pagan territory in which the Canaanites practiced all forms of idolatry.
And it was not uncommon during that time for the Jews to look down upon the Canaanites with disdain because of their idolatrous practices, and refer to them as “unclean dogs” – for they felt that the Gentiles were excluded from God’s Covenant and His favor with Israel.
But our Lord’s intent was different. Saint John Chrysostom, one of the early Father’s and a Doctor of the Church puts a slightly different slant on the harshness of these words and writes, “This was the cause why Christ was so harsh, that He knew what she would say, and would not have her so great excellence hid.”
In other words, Our Lord knew the deep faith which this woman held in her heart, and what He could do for her and for her daughter. It was through her great love for her daughter, imitating the Love which God has for His children, that this mother persevered, humbling herself before a man whom she knew to be a great prophet, emptying herself and opening her heart before Jesus with the words, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”
In such humility, and due to a mother’s deep love and desperation for her daughter’s well-being, Jesus saw the Spirit of the Living God in her and acceded to her request.
Here was a woman who had embraced a lifetime of idolatry. Yet, in her love for her daughter, she allowed her heart to embrace the humility which was necessary to seek mercy from the One whom she trusted would hear her prayer.
Quite a contrast from what we just read in our First Reading. Solomon was God’s anointed, given wondrous gifts by God Himself, chosen to shepherd Israel into a righteous relationship with the One True God, only to throw it all away!
His glorious rise to fame, his piety and wisdom, administrative skill and wealth, the extension of his kingdom, his prestige among neighboring rulers, his reign of peace, above all his friendship with God – all these now eclipsed by his sins of intermarriage with great numbers of pagan wives and together with his forbidden worship of their gods – all resulted in God’s anger against Solomon.
Solomon’s heart was turned from worship of the One True God to false gods. The Canaanite woman, on the other hand, turned from her idol worship into dependence upon the God about whom Jesus preached; and in her heartfelt plea, she ended on her knees in humble supplication, imploring God’s understanding and mercy.
In this world and the culture which you and I live, are we able to set aside and forsake whatever idol worship we may entertain, be it fame, fortune, power, or any other form of self-serving or self-indulgent thoughts or feelings which can harm our relationship with God?
Our faith teaches us that no one who has ever sought God with an open heart – whether Jew or Gentile, Christian or non-Christian – was ever refused His help, for our God is a God of Love. He is a God of Mercy and Compassion, a God who truly understands our human condition, and who desires an intimate relationship of love with each and every one of us, His children.
In this walk of faith which you and I travel each day through life, may we always seek out Jesus with an open heart, with an expectant faith and a joyful hope.
And may the Eternal Light of God’s Loving Presence fill each of His children – you, me and all our brothers and sisters in Christ – with a serenity and a peace, the healing of heart and soul, mind and body, which only God Himself can give to us on this side of Heaven. †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “When Solomon was old his wives had turned his heart to follow other gods, and his heart was not entirely with the LORD, his God, as the heart of David his father had been…The LORD became angry with Solomon, because his heart turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel…” (1 Kings 11:4, 9)
- “[They] mingled with the nations and imitated their ways. They served their idols and were ensnared by them…They defiled themselves by their actions, became adulterers by their conduct. So the LORD grew angry with his people.” (Psalm 35-36, 39-40a)
- “[Jesus] 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.’” (Mark 7:27)
- “She replied and said to him, ‘Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.’” (Mark 7:28)
- “Many are the troubles of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him from them all.” (Psalm 34:20)
- “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you.” (Jeremiah 1:5ab)
- “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (1 Corinthians 5:7)
- “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen…without faith, it is impossible to please [God], for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:1, 6)
- “He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy.” (Titus 3:5)
Prayer for the Day
“Our Eternal and Most Loving Father in Heaven,
may everything I do begin with Your inspiration,
continue with Your saving help,
and reach perfection under Your guidance.
“With Your Loving Care, guide me in my daily actions,
and help me to persevere with love and sincerity.
Teach me to judge wisely the things of Earth
and to always love the things of Heaven.
“Your Spirit instilled in my heart that I am Your child,
and I am confident to call You my Father.
Keep me in Your Presence always
and never let me be separated from You.
“Make Your Love and Mercy the foundation of my life;
teach me to long for Heaven as my eternal Home.
May its promise and hope guide my way on Earth
until I finally reach eternal life with You. Amen.”