November 25, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
I have been away a while. It’s good to be back with the good news from Mark 7:24-30.
From that place he went off 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.
A few initial thoughts come to mind. This image of the Gentile woman falling prostrate at Jesus’ feet called to mind that at Sunday’s Mass we acknowledged Jesus as the King of the Universe. She, too, recognized Jesus’ supremacy and his power to answer her prayer. It was customary to show one’s humility to a superior authority by bowing, resting on bended knee, or lying prostrate. It was a sign of subjection and loyalty. It must have been an arresting sight, because Jesus had no outward sign of power, no rich raiment, no crown or gold rings, no sword. Instead he was clothed in a demeanor of compassion and love and mercy. That’s what drew people to him, not absolute power. Otherwise who in their right mind would question a man of power and authority, who would talk back to him in such a foolhardy, insubordinate manner without fear of punishment or rejection?
I can talk to him like that, too. I can question; I can be impertinent. I can be real, revealing all my thoughts and feelings without fear of rejection or punishment. I can do this because he has shown over and over again in scripture and in my life that he has only compassion and love and mercy for me. That’s the power he has for me.
Jesus came into the district of Tyre and was acknowledged as a superior authority by this Gentile woman though he had no accoutrements of power. This is contrasted with what Joshua tells us in the Hebrew Bible when the Israelites were given their inheritance by lot. The fifth lot fell to the tribe of Asher that included the fortress city of Tyre. It’s ironic, though, in Barclay’s words that the Asherites “had never been able to subdue their territory and they had never entered into it. Again is it not symbolic? Where the might of arms was helpless, the conquering love of Jesus Christ was victorious. The earthly Israel had failed to gather in the people of Phoenecia; now the true Israel had come upon them. It was not a strange land into which Jesus came; it was a land which long ago God had given him for his own. He was not so much coming amongst strangers as entering into his inheritance.” Jesus conquers by love. How many times do I have to be reminded of that? How many times do I have to be reminded that God created me for the purpose of channeling His love to others. I am His vessel and His instrument, just as Jesus was.
So, what I take away today — not for the first time — is that I am both the recipient of HIs love and the instrument of His love. As Jesus said, that pretty much sums up the whole of God’s law. Such a simple thing to keep in mind, but such a hard thing to carry out! When I place my trust in Jesus’ love for me and faith in his compassion and mercy, my demons — the demons of fear and pride and all the rest — will leave me just as in this story — if even just for a short time.