Immersed in Christ: February 11, 2021
Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Mark 7:24-30. Year I: Genesis 2:18-25; Psalm 128:1-5. Year II: IKings 11:4-13; Psalm 106:3-40.
When he sent his disciples out on mission, Jesus told them, “If they refuse to hear you, shake their dust off your feet as you leave, as a testimony against them” (6:11). This may be what he was doing when, after his last frustrating encounter with the scribes and Pharisees he “went away to the region of Tyre,” a Gentile province of Syrians and Phoenicians. Or he may have just been putting some distance between himself and the “clerical triumphalist legalists” (see Tuesday’s reflection) who were bent on silencing him at all costs, even through murder (3:6).
Jesus had “entered a house,” which may mean he had friends in that area, but he was keeping a low profile, because he “did not want anyone to know he was there.” Still, a Gentile woman came in and asked him to heal her little daughter. Jesus’ response seems rude and totally out of character. “It is not right,” he said, “to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”
What was his tone of voice when he said this? Was he smiling? The words are shocking, but he was certainly leading her on. This woman was no wilting violet. Her response didn’t express any sense of being inferior because she was not Jewish. She just gave Jesus’ words right back to him. If that was the way he wanted to play it, it was fine with her: “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
If we take her words at face value, what Jesus had led her into was a profession of faith! She acknowledged that God, for whatever reason, had chosen the Jews to be his special people. That didn’t make them better than her own people; it was just a fact. And Jesus left it at that. He didn’t exhort her to change religions and become a Jew (which also would have meant, at that time, changing her nationality and culture). He just complimented her on her answer and told her that her little daughter was healed.
When he used the word “dogs,” Jesus also may have been talking almost to himself, echoing the triumphalist attitude of those he had just left, for whom being a Jew “in good standing” was to belong to a religious elite. This is what they would have said. How would she answer?
The good news here is that Jesus accepts people as they are. So should we. Having the “right” religion does not necessarily make us the “right kind of people.” Jesus looks deeper: at the faith, hope and love in one’s heart.
Initiative: Be open to the goodness in everyone, no matter how it is packaged.