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LETTING DOWN THE FAMILY

Father Francis's picture
Fifth Week of Ordinary Time

1 Kings 11:4-13 & Mk. 7:24-30

What happened to wise and wonderful Solomon? One day we are told of his great wisdom and genuine fame. The next day we read the story of an old king who had lost favour with his God and with his people. What ruined this great man? As was the custom in Solomon’s day, he had many wives. But he made the terrible mistake of marrying foreign women who brought their pagan religious practices with them into the very heart of the palace. In fact, Solomon built shrines to their gods alongside of the temple he had earlier built for God. No wonder God became angry with Solomon and informed him before his own death that his kingdom would pass over into the hands of his servants rather than his sons. Solomon's sin was a disgrace to his family - to his father who preceded him and his sons who followed him.

We are members of families, and our behavior affects our families whether we know it or not. We are either a shame or a credit to our families, depending on the kind of lives we lead. We are beginning to see the "family connection" in our behavior. The children of divorced homes are scarred for the rest of their lives. The children of alcoholics are burdened with problems for the rest of their lives. There is no such thing as a separate life.

The Gospel passages 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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