Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, February 11
We Are Created Out of Love and Are Destined to Share in That Love With Our God and With Each Other.
“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 many 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 Syrophoenician, 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 that this woman held in her heart, and what He could do for her and for her daughter. For 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.
And it is in Matthew’s Gospel where the story of the our Lord’s response is given in much more detail, “Then Jesus said to her in reply, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed from that hour.”
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 that was necessary to seek mercy from the One whom she trusted would hear her prayer. She 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.
And when we look at this Gospel account today with the eyes of faith with which we have been blessed, we begin to acknowledge the fact that God, in His Merciful Love, could do no less. We have come to know and believe that our God is a compassionate God – One who truly cares for His children, One who truly feels for our pain and wishes to fill us with His consolation amidst all that we experience in life.
We begin to realize this aspect of our Most thoughtful and compassionate God when we read the account of Creation in today’s First Reading, “The LORD God said: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.’”
God saw the incompleteness in man being alone by himself. God knew that for man to feel whole and complete as a human being, he would need a “suitable partner” to complement his person, one with whom his life could be shared and with whom he could communicate, one with whom he could give and receive love.
For man to share in the Divine Nature of God, to be made in God’s image and likeness, means more than being given an immortal soul; it also means that we are also to have a share in the ability to love.
And when Adam looked upon the partner whom God created for him, we find the first words spoken by man written in the Bible, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.”
As we reflect upon our Scripture Readings for today, we become awakened to the teachings of our faith that no one who has ever sought God with an open and humble 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 with each and every one of us!
In this walk of faith which you and I make each day, 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 the sure and certain knowledge that we are created out of Love and are destined to share in that Love with our God and with each other.
For it is in this sharing where we shall find our true happiness. †
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
- “The LORD God said: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.’” (Genesis 2:18)
- “As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; And as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.” (Isaiah 62:5)
- “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)
- “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.” (1 John 4:9-11)
- “Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:9-10)
- “Then Jesus said to her in reply, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed from that hour.” (Matthew 15:28)
- “Since you have purified yourselves by obedience to the truth for sincere mutual love, love one another intensely from a pure heart.” (1 Peter 1:22)
- “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Prayer for the Day
“God of Love and Mercy,
You call us to be Your people,
You gift us with Your abundant grace.
“Make us a holy people,
radiating the fullness of Your Love.
“Form us into a community, a people who care,
expressing Your Compassion.
“Remind us day after day of our baptismal call to serve,
with joy and courage.
“Teach us how to grow in wisdom and grace
and joy in Your Presence.
“Through Jesus and in Your Spirit,The Millennium Prayer
we make this prayer. Amen.”