Catholic Mass Readings and Reflection February 08, 2024


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R/. O Lord, remember us with the favour you show to your people.

V/. Alleluia R/. Alleluia

V/. Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

R/. Alleluia

At that time: Jesus arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. But immediately a woman, whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

1.      The greatest sin of Solomon was his defection from Yahweh the true God and disloyalty to Him. As we are told, he became so vulnerable as to be misled by his wives to turn away his heart after other gods. His heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. He did not wholly follow the Lord.

2.       In fact, the Lord appeared to him twice and cautioned him not to go after other gods. But Solomon did not pay heed to this explicit command of God. He does not keep God’s covenant and His statutes that the Lord God has commanded him. Consequently, he incurs the just wrath of God and forfeits the longevity of his kingdom.

3.       However, God in His benevolence and mercy, does not tear the kingdom from him but from his son’s hands. Besides, one tribe will be retained and not all of the kingdom. This is the interplay between God’s fidelity and mercy and human infidelity and evil.

4.       In the gospel, we have a contrasting figure for faith and turning to the true God. A certain Syrophoenician woman approaches Jesus for the healing of her possessed daughter. While Solomon the chosen one turns away from the true God to other false gods, the pagan woman turns toward the true God.

5.       Great was her faith because it was adorned with humility. She falls down at his feet with deep trust. Perhaps many may brush aside this humble act as of no merit but as a sheer act out of necessity. But what makes her faith great is her utter humility that accepts and swallows even an explicit offence and humiliation.

6.       Jesus not only turns down her plea but also speaks derogatively, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs”. Here some may argue, how could Jesus who is above every discrimination and respects everyone and despises no one, be so harsh and offensive? The point is not that.

7.       There can be different plausible explanations for this unusual offensiveness of Jesus. Whether Jesus wanted to test her faith? Whether Jesus wanted to give us an example of humble faith in her person?

8.       Whether Jesus wanted to dispel our wrong presumptions that God’s grace is no one’s prerogative on the basis of mere religious allegiance? Whether Jesus wanted to make it clear that his primary purpose was to regain the lost people of God?

9.       Whether these words are not actually Jesus’ own but put into Jesus’ mouth by the evangelist who reflects simply the Jewish mentality of despisal toward the Gentiles?

10.   Whatever it be, what steals the show is her unshaken faith that could respond, “Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs”. True faith is deeply humble and persevering. It is not easily upset and does not give up.

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