REFLECTION FOR TODAY
February 11, 2021
By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA
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. Mark 7:25–26
In our gospel reference today, a Syrophoenician woman begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. Despite the fact that she was a Gentile, she shows tremendous faith in Jesus and he heals her daughter.
A mother’s love is very strong and powerful. This love was expressed by this mother who seek out Jesus in the hope that He will free her daughter from the demon who possessed her. Interestingly, this woman was not of the Jewish faith. She was a gentile, a foreigner, but her faith was very real and very deep. Despite not being a Jew—despite not being among that people of the Covenant, who had been waiting for the Messiah to come—nonetheless cried out to Jesus for help. But what happened when she cried out to Jesus for help?
Jesus’ response was at first surprising. 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.” Jesus essentially calls the woman and her daughter dogs! He says to this outsider, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” The “children” Jesus is referring to are the children of Israel, the ones the Father sent Him to teach, while this woman is an outsider, a “dog”.
But why is Jesus talking this way? The word “dogs” doesn’t fully capture what Jesus says. The actual word is more gentle, and specific, meaning “puppies”: something adorable, if pesky. The woman’s response to Jesus shows that she knows what Jesus is up to, and is willing to play along. Jesus spoke this way to this woman not out of rudeness but because He could see her deep faith, and He wanted to give her an opportunity to manifest that faith for all to see. And so she did.
The woman responded to Jesus, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Her words were not only exceptionally humble but were also based on deep faith and a deep love for her daughter. As a result, Jesus responds with generosity and immediately frees her daughter from the demon.
In our own lives, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking we deserve the mercy of God. We can think that we have a right to God’s grace. And even though Jesus deeply desires to pour forth His grace and mercy in superabundance on our lives, it is essential that we fully understand our unworthiness before Him. The disposition of this woman’s heart sets for us a perfect example of how we must come to our Lord.
God knows you better than you know yourself. God demands faith from us, even when we believe we have none. He is willing to “pull” our faith out of us—we might even say that He is willing to test us—in order to purify our faith. Jesus knows what sort of faith this woman has. And He is willing to draw it out, because without faith on this woman’s part, he will not work a miracle.
Reflect, today, upon the beautiful example of this woman of deep faith. Prayerfully read her words over and over. Try to understand her humility, her hope, and her love for her daughter. As you do, pray that you will be able to imitate her goodness so as to share in the blessings she and her daughter received.
My merciful Lord, I trust in Your perfect love for me and for all peoples. I pray especially for those who carry heavy burdens and for those whose lives are deeply intertwined with evil. Please set them free, dear Lord, and welcome them into Your family so that they become true children of Your Father. May I have the humility and faith I need to help bring forth this abundance of grace for others. Jesus, I trust in You.