What We Can Bear for the One We Love

12 February 2009. Thursday of the 5th Week in Ordinary Time
Gen 2, 18-25; Psalm 128; Mark 7, 24-30

There were two things that made the story of the healing of the daughter of the Syro-Pheonician amazing. The mother was a woman and a Gentile. For many Jews, women were secondary citizens, almost the possession of men. Gentiles were non-Jews, outsiders. For the Jews, Gentiles were unclean. One should not mingle with them. Jesus was in Gentile territory when the women begged and pleaded on behalf of her daughter.

The story calls us to action today.

First, we are invited to imitate the persistence of the mother even when things seem hopeless. Despite the social restrictions, Jesus was her only hope. She would bear even insults just to have her possessed daughter healed. Jesus said that “it is not right to give food to the dogs.” In the olden days, the dogs were not regarded as man’s best friend. The word, dog, was used by the Jews to refer to the Gentiles. How far would we go in finding the cure for a loved one? What degree of pain are we willing to bear in order to ensure a bright future for our family? As Jesus allowed for the persistence of the woman, often God allows us to repeatedly asked for what we desire. The extent of our pleading tells us the depth of our desires.

Second, we are invited to imitate Jesus’ breaking of the rules on behalf of compassion to an outsider. Here we see a pattern: human rules are not as important as the law of love. Jesus would break Sabbath laws if his disciples would go hungry like King David for his troops. Jesus broke the law on food restrictions by declaring that nothing defiles us from what we eat but what comes from our heart. And now, Jesus removes what separates the clean (the Jews) and the unclean people. He has opened the doors of God’s compassion to all peoples. That God shows mercy, not just to the first chosen people, but to all peoples regardless of ethnicity, race, belief or gender.

Third, we are challenged to examine our openness to other faiths. Every Easter we pray for the Jews who are the first sons and daughters of the ‘household’. We endeavor to dialogue with other religions in order to understand each other. We strive to welcome those who are members of other Christian faith traditions in order to appreciate what binds us than what divides us. How comfortable are we working with people of different faiths? How do you handle those who would insists on converting you to their beliefs? What are the difficulties you encounter in being ‘open’ to others?

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