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PRAISE FOR UNSHAKEABLE FAITH AND INDOMITABLE PERSISTENCE

Father Francis's picture
Fifth Week of Ordinary Time

Gen. 2:18-25 & Mk. 7:24-30

Marriage should be a lasting relationship between one man and one woman, and that within marriage sex should find its fulfilment. This is what God intended as evident in the reading from Genesis today.

Sexual love is meant to express a relationship between a husband and wife so profound and so intimate that they say to each other, “I love you completely, exclusively and forever."

Sexual love says, “I love you completely”. This is because a husband and wife give themselves unreservedly to each other and accept each other totally, with all their qualities and all their shortcomings.

Sexual love says, “I love you exclusively.” This is because a husband and wife give themselves to each other completely and honestly, and cannot give themselves to anyone else in the same way.

Sexual love says, “I love you forever.” This is because the complete and exclusive relationship between a husband and wife is so precious that they want it to last for a lifetime.

This is God’s view of sex and marriage. Sadly these ideals are being eroded in our society every day, but we are called to uphold God’s plan by our attitudes and our example.

The Gospel passage describes the only occasion on which Jesus ministered outside of Jewish territory. Tyre and Sidon were 50 miles north of Israel and still exist in modern Lebanon. A Gentile woman – an outsider who was not a member of the chosen people – puts Jesus on the spot by pleading with Him to show mercy to her daughter who was tormented with an evil spirit. At first Jesus seemed to pay no attention to her and this made His disciples feel embarrassed. In all likelihood He did this to test her sincerity and to awaken faith in her.

But what did Jesus mean by the expression "throwing bread to the dogs"? The Jews often spoke of the Gentiles with arrogance and insolence as "unclean dogs" since the Gentiles were excluded from God's covenant and favour with Israel. For the Greeks the "dog" was a symbol of dishonour and was used to describe a shameless and audacious woman. Matthew (7:6) records the expression about not giving dogs what is holy. Jesus, no doubt, spoke with a smile because this woman immediately responds with wit and faith – "even the dogs eat the crumbs". Jesus praises a Gentile woman for her persistent faith and for her affectionate love: she made the misery of her child her own and she was willing to suffer rebuff in order to obtain healing for her loved one. She also had indomitable persistence. Her faith grew in contact with the person of Jesus and what began with a request ended with her on her knees in worshipful prayer to the living God. No one who ever sought Jesus with faith – whether Jew or Gentile – was refused His help. Do we seek Jesus with expectant faith?

Lord Jesus, Whose love and mercy knows no bounds, may we trust You always and never doubt Your loving care and mercy. Increase our faith in Your saving help and deliver us from all evil and harm.

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