From there Jesus set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know He was there. Yet He could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about Him, and she came and bowed down at His feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." But she answered Him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." Then He said to her, "For saying that, you may go--the demon has left your daughter." So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. Mark 7:24-30
There are a number of lessons for us to learn here. This passage in St Mark's Gospel does not often get noticed and discussed.
First of all we need to remember that the woman was a Gentile. Not a person with whom Jesus would be expected to associate with. At first sight, we may think that He is being rude calling her and her people dogs.
He is in fact saying that He came to be with His people first, (the Jews), and it is not fair for Him to spend His time with, and performing miracles for, the Gentiles.
Why is Jesus behaving this way? Isn't the Word of God meant for everyone? Isn't God's invitation to everybody?
Let's think about this a little. Jesus here is not being rude, or deliberately withholding love and grace to some people. His imagery, comparing the woman and her people to dogs, may be harsh, but Jesus here is doing two things worth noting:
He is testing the woman's faith.
He is sending a clear message to the onlookers who see what is happening; and who reported it to be written in this Gospel for all of us to read and learn. These onlookers, (and us), are about to learn an important lesson.
She responds back. She is not going to be put off by His refusals. Her needs are too important. Her love for her daughter is such that she is not going to back off at the first obstacle she encounters. She responds that even she and her people, unworthy as they might be in someone's eyes, are still worthy of God's pity and compassion.
Jesus is impressed. He obviously knew how she would react; and He heals her daughter.
But the message He sends is there for all to see. God's love, pity and compassion is for everyone. No one is excluded. We are all worthy and we are all loved as individuals no matter who we are.
There are times in life when our world is upside down. We feel in a corner, totally trapped and broken down. We may be asking God for help for ourselves or our loved ones. We despair. Perhaps in our hour of darkness we may say, or think, something totally wrong, totally rebellious, towards God. Just like this woman, we answer back to God and ask Him why He does not help us.
He can take our anger. Just as He did when dying on the Cross.
He understands our situation and our despair, just as He understood the situation facing the Gentile woman asking Him for help.
Provided we truly believe that He can help us. Provided we have total faith in God and His power to respond. As long as we ask in humility and pure honesty; He will hear our pleas and He will answer our prayers positively.
That's the important lesson we learn from this reading. The woman did not give up. She answered back. She asked again. She knew for certain that Jesus could help her. And her faith was rewarded.