Thursday, February 8, 2018
1) Opening prayer
watch over Your family
and keep us safe in Your care,
for all our hope is in You.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
One God, forever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel reading - Mark 7:24-30
Jesus went to the district of Tyre. He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it, but he could not escape notice. 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. 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.” She replied and said to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.” When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
In today’s Gospel we see how Jesus is attentive to a foreign woman, belonging to another race and to another religion, even though this was forbidden by the religious law of that time. At the beginning Jesus did not want to help her, but the woman insists and obtains what she wants: the cure of her daughter.
Jesus is trying to broaden the mentality of the disciples and of the people beyond the traditional vision. In the multiplication of the loaves, He had insisted on sharing (Mk 6: 30-44). He had declared all food pure (Mk 7: 1-23). In this episode of the Canaanite woman, He exceeds, goes beyond the frontiers of the national territory and accepts a foreign woman who did not belong to the people and with whom it was forbidden to speak. These initiatives of Jesus, which come from His experience of God the Father, were foreign to the mentality of the people of that time; Jesus helps the people to get out of their way of experiencing God in life.
Mark 7: 24: Jesus gets out of that territory. In the Gospel yesterday (Mk 7: 14-23) and of the day before (Mk 7: 1-13), Jesus had criticized the incoherence of the tradition of the ancients and had helped the people and the disciples to get out of the prison of the laws of purity. Here, in Mark 7: 24, He leaves Galilee. He seems to want to get out from the prison of territory and race. Finding Himself outside, He does not want to be recognized. But His fame had reached there before. People had recourse to Jesus.
Mark 7: 25-26: The situation. A woman approaches Jesus and begins to ask for help for her daughter who is sick. Mark says explicitly that she belongs to another race and to another religion. That means that she was a gentile. She throws herself at the feet of Jesus and begins to plead for the cure of her daughter, who was possessed by an unclean spirit. For the gentiles it was not a problem to go to Jesus. But for the Jews to live with gentiles was a problem!
Mark 7: 27: The response of Jesus. Faithful to the norms of His religion, Jesus says that it is not appropriate to take the bread of the children and give it to little dogs! This was a hard phrase. The comparison came from life in the family. Even now, children and dogs are numerous, especially in poor neighborhoods. Jesus affirms one thing: no mother takes away bread from the mouth of her children to give it to the dogs. In this case the children were the Hebrew people and the little dogs, the gentiles. At the time of the Old Testament, because of rivalry among the people, the people used to call other people dogs (1 Sam 17: 43). In the other Gospels, Jesus explains the reason for His refusal: “I have been sent only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel!” (Mt 15:24). In other words, the Father does not want Me to take care of this woman!
Mark 7: 28: The reaction of the woman. She agrees with Jesus, but she extends the comparison and applies it to her case: Jesus, this is true, but the little dogs also eat the crumbs that fall from the table of the children! It is as if she said, “If I am a little dog, then I have the right of little dogs, that is, the crumbs that fall from the table belong to me!” She simply draws conclusions from the parable that Jesus told and shows that even in the house of Jesus, the little dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table of the children. And in the house of Jesus , that is, in the Christian community, the multiplication of the bread for the children was so abundant that there were twelve baskets full left over (Mk 6: 42) for the little dogs , that is, for her, for the gentiles!
Mark 7: 29-30: The reaction of Jesus: “Because of what you have said, go. The devil has gone out of your daughter!” In the other Gospels it is made more explicit: “Great is your faith! May it be done as you wish!” (Mt 15: 28). If Jesus accepts the woman’s request, it is because He understands that now the Father wanted Him to accept her request. This episode helps us to understand something of the mystery which envelops the person of Jesus and His life with the Father. Observing the reactions and the attitudes of the people, Jesus discovers the will of the Father in the events of life. The attitude of the woman opens a new horizon in the life of Jesus. Thanks to her, He discovers better the project of the Father for all those who seek to liberate themselves from the chains which imprison their energy. Thus, throughout the pages of the Gospel of Mark, there is a growing opening toward the people. In this way, Mark leads the readers to open themselves before the reality of the world which surrounds them and to overcome the preconceptions which prevent a peaceful living together among the people. This opening toward gentiles appears very clearly in the final order given by Jesus to the disciples, after His Resurrection: “Go out to the whole world, proclaim the Gospel to all creation” (Mk 16: 15).
4) Personal questions
Concretely, what do you do to live peacefully with people of other Christian Churches?
In the neighborhood where you live, are there people of other religions? Which?
Do you normally speak with people of other religions?
What kind of broadening of mind does this text demand from us today, in the family and in the community?
5) Concluding prayer
Blessed are those who keep to what is just,
whose conduct is always upright!
Remember me, Yahweh, in Your love for Your people.
Come near to me with Your saving power. (Ps 106:3-4)