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Christopher Ross S.J.Feb 8, 2024 12:00:00 AM2 min read

8 February 2024

Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus in the Gospel today is enigmatic, and many questions arise for the modern reader. We might find ourselves wondering what Jesus actually meant when he seemingly compares the Syrophoenician woman—and the Gentiles more generally—to dogs rather than children. What was his tone? Was it playful? Was it serious? Was this some sort of test to see how the woman would respond? All of these are good questions; but honestly, I do not feel like I have the credentials to answer all of them. Nevertheless, this passage is still the word of God to us today, manifesting something about the Lord and his mission of salvation.

And so, in the encounter of the Syrophoenician woman with Jesus, a few points do stand out clearly upon which we can fruitfully reflect. Evidently, the woman is exemplary in her humility and faith. In the first moment when they meet, this foreign woman falls down at Jesus’ feet and begs him for a favor. Asking for this miracle on behalf of her daughter—not even for herself—the woman bends down before Jesus and lowers herself in a position of humility. Likewise, later on in the dialogue, the woman responds with humility, for she does not begrudge the prerogatives of the chosen children of Israel. Rather she suggests that “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” In other words, she contents herself with the scraps. But, hidden in this response is perhaps greater faith than what we might at first imagine. After all, she is asking for her daughter to be cured from demonic possession! To us, this request might seem like a huge ask. But, from the perspective of this woman’s great faith, she believes that God’s love in Jesus is so immense that even casting out a demon is like a scrap that falls from his loving power and powerful love. She is content with the scraps, but she has faith that the divine scraps are far more than enough to satisfy her hunger. Seeing such humility and faith, Jesus grants her request by freeing her daughter and proves that the power of God’s saving love knows no bounds.

And, just as it was the case for this Syrophoenician woman, so too it is the case for us today. In the universality of his reach, we see how God in Jesus Christ desires to pour forth from his store of infinite goodness. As St. Ignatius says, “It is certain that on [God’s] part, he is ready” to communicate his supreme goodness and eternal love,” “provided that on our part there is a vessel of humility and longing to receive his gifts.” And so, provided that we follow the example of the Syrophoenician’s humility and faith, we can know that God will pour forth the power of his saving love into our lives. With humility and faith, we can be certain that even the scraps of the Lord are enough to fill and feed us and the whole world.