Scripture Lesson: Mark 7:24-30
Meditation: “Let the children be fed first.”
We who are used to the Good Shepherd, the gentle forgiver of sins, may find this Gospel baffling. Who among us would spurn a mother’s pleading for the life of her child? Yet that is what Jesus seems to do. Why would he be unmoved by her tears, only to suddenly reverse his decision after her quick answer? What’s going on in this Gospel, and what does it mean for us?
Jesus is in Gentile territory. This woman hears about him and rushes to ask for a miracle for her daughter. Mark’s Gospel closely links Jesus’ miracles with his teaching. The miracles are a sign of the kingdom of God breaking into the world and into people’s lives. Here, however, Jesus has not been teaching. This Gentile woman is looking for a cure for her daughter without reference to who Jesus is. She only knows that he works miracles, and she is taking advantage of this opportunity.
Jesus lets her know his terms: his miracles are part of a larger context of salvation history in which the children of Israel come first. Thus, the children are fed, and it is not right to give that food to the dogs (a reference to the Gentiles). Jesus hardly seems gracious here! Has he no heart?!
The woman replies with an act of faith that God’s power is at work in this Jewish rabbi who stands before her: you have preached to the Jews, surely there must be something left for the Gentiles. Thus, the dogs eat the children’s scraps. Think of the tremendous humility it took to say this — but desperation drove her to such a plea. In faith, she will accept whatever “leftover scrap” Jesus has for her daughter. In response, Jesus says, “For saying that, you may go — the demon has left your daughter.”
The woman has no claims to assistance, no right to receive Jesus’ favor, but depends solely on his graciousness. Will Jesus indeed be gracious to she and her daughter? With another act of faith she leaves him, trusting his word when he tells her that her daughter is well. It is only when she arrives home that she sees her daughter asleep in her bed, healed.
Like this woman, we do not deserve (we cannot claim) any miraculous interventions in our life. We cannot presume upon God, tell God what to do. We depend solely on grace. This dependence must be marked by faith — a faith that places absolute trust in God’s word.
Lord, sometimes I boss you about, telling you what to do for me or for others. I am sorry. Lord, increase my faith.
I depend on you, Lord, for everything.
Adapted from “Ordinary Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections,” (C) 2011, Daughters of St. Paul