The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith
Calvin Miller in his, Rethinking Suburban Evangelism, (Leadership, 1988, p. 68) told this story that some time ago, a teenager, Arthur Hinkley, lifted a 3,000-pound tractor with bare hands. He wasn’t a weight lifter, but his friend, Lloyd Bachelder, 18, was pinned under a tractor on a farm near Rome, Maine. Hearing Lloyd scream, Arthur somehow lifted the tractor enough for Lloyd to wriggle out. Love was the real motivation. And Love reaches for the hurt and takes bold steps without self-interest. It can accomplish unbelievable things merely because it is so void of self-interest.
In today’s gospel a Gentile woman puts Jesus on the spot by pleading for His mercy on her daughter who was afflicted with an evil spirit. At first Jesus seems no attention is given to her and this made his disciples feel embarrassed. Jesus does this to test the woman to awaken faith in her. What does Jesus mean by the expression “throwing bread to the dogs?” The Jews often speak of the Gentiles with arrogance and insolence as ‘unclean dogs’ since the Gentiles are excluded from God’s covenant and favor with Israel. For the Greeks the ‘dog’ is a symbol of dishonor and is used to describe a shameless and audacious woman. Matthew’s gospel records the expression: “do not give dogs what is holy,” (Matt. 7:6). Jesus, no doubt, speaks with a smile rather than with an insult because this woman immediately responds with wit and faith, “even the dogs eat the crumbs.” Jesus praises this Gentile woman for her faith and for her love.
Besides faith, today’s gospel Jesus shows us on how to be a Christian. And to be Christians is to be loving persons. These two are synonymous. I will share with you some of the characteristics of a loving person. First is unconditional love. One of the dilemmas about human love is that it is often conditional. That is, “If you do what I want you to do or be what I want you to be, I will love you. If not, I will withdraw my love from you.” And according to an author, conditional love is not love at all. It is a means of controlling another person. On the process we are damaging the person being controlled.
But unconditional love is the only way we can love one another. This gift says simply: “I want to share with you whatever I have that is good. Somewhere in the world there may be someone who is better for you or for me. That is not the point. The point is that I have chosen to give you my gift of love and you have chosen to love me. That is the only soil in which love can grow. We’re going to make it together!”
And the other one is, a loving person only thinks of doing good and avoid evil. Doing good and avoid evil is natural for us. You know this is naturally and immediately imposes itself on everyone.
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