A reading from the gospel according to Mark 7:24-30:
24 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.
25 Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet.
26 The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter.
27 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.”
28 She replied and said to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”
29 Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.”
30 When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
Reflection: Humility and Courage
Previous verses of Mark’s gospel speak of uncleanness. In this gospel reading, Jesus goes to Tyre, a Gentile territory where the people are considered unclean by the Israelites. Presumably, He went there to rest but still, the people recognized Him as the miracle worker. One of them was a woman who humbly begged Jesus to cast out the unclean spirit from her daughter. So it was still work for Jesus.
As a Gentile and a woman at that, the heroine in our knew she was considered politically an outsider, sociologically inferior, and religiously unclean. Yet she was a mother with a daughter who needed healing. Her motherly instinct was to be brave enough to approach Jesus for the sake of her beloved daughter. Thus, she cast aside any barrier to get to Jesus face to face and humbly presented her case.
Jesus did not immediately grant her petition. Instead, He told her to “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Although dogs were not considered man’s best friend in those days, biblical scholars still do not label these words of Jesus as an insult to the woman but rather a metaphor or proverb. He was just using the standard of the time where non-Jewish people were considered as dirty like dogs. Considering that the mission of Jesus was to gather the “lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 15:24)”, He was just saying to the woman to follow protocols.
Yet the woman was bold in her response. As a pagan, she knew she had no right whatsoever to approach a Jew, much less to ask for help from Him. However, because of her audacity and her faith that Jesus has the power to heal and to cast out unclean spirit, her wish was granted.
This gospel passage teaches a number of lessons. First, let us be humble to acknowledge that we are all unclean and therefore, unworthy to approach Jesus. Second, it is important to have the courage of the woman to beg for the mercy and grace of Jesus. Let us maintain the faith that He can do miracles in our life and that His mission is still to reach out to the outsider, the sick and the unclean. Lastly, the gospel is reminding us that salvation is for all. Although Jesus started His mission in a small territory in the Middle East, His command is to spread the gospel to all nations (MARK 16:15).