Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard the message of the word of God speaking to us through the Scriptures about the fall of Solomon into sin, when he at his old age began to be swayed by his many wives and concubines who continued to practice their pagan worship of idols and gods, and eventually led to the king himself and many of the people succumbing to the pagan idolatry themselves, offering sacrifices to those false idols and gods.
God was angered at the faithlessness of Solomon and his sins, which led the people of Israel deeper into sin against Him. And as a result, eventually the kingdom of Israel was divided into two halves, one of which was the kingdom of Judah led by the descendants of Solomon from the house of David, while the northern kingdom of Israel composed of the ten tribes in opposition to the house of David had their own kings. Many of the subsequent kings did not have faith in God and acted wickedly, allowing pagan worship and idolatry to run rampant.
From what we have just heard and discussed, we can see how there was a prejudice against the pagan neighbouring people of the Israelites. Beginning with the account of how king Solomon was seduced and persuaded by his many foreign wives and concubines, these neighbours of the Israelites were often considered as pagans, wicked and unworthy of God. This went along with the notion that the Israelites were the chosen race and a people whom God Himself had chosen to be His own.
As a result, the people of Israel often looked down on the Gentiles or the people who were non-Jewish in origin or in faith, and they considered them as being unworthy, dirty and sundered from God’s love and grace. Yet, what we have also then heard from our Gospel passage today serve as an important reminder that God’s love for His people transcends the boundaries of race, and unlike what the people then believed, God did not just choose to keep one people for His own, but in fact, made all of the children of man, His own beloved children.
In that Gospel passage we heard of the encounter between Jesus and a Syro-Phoenician woman who came seeking His help to heal her very sick daughter, having heard that the Lord had healed many of the sick who were brought to Him. Syro-Phoenicia was a region located just north of the region of Galilee where Jesus often ministered among the people with His disciples, a region that has always been outside the original land of the Israelites, and therefore the woman was likely a non-Jew or Gentile. In another account, the woman was also known as a Canaanite woman, and Canaanites referred to the people of Canaan who lived in the land before the coming of the Israelites.
What the Lord Jesus said to the Syro-Phoenician woman might seem to be quite rude if we do not understand the intent behind the Lord’s utterance of His words to the woman. The Lord responded to her request for help for her daughter with the harsh words, ‘that one ought not to give the food to the dogs’ which implied a very demeaning and condescending attitude. But the woman responded in kind, that ‘even dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of the house master’, which showed not just her incredible faith but also humility.
The Lord did not in fact intend to be rude to her or to embarrass her. In truth, what He uttered was meant to highlight the ugly reality behind the way the Israelites had been behaving up to that time, especially the attitudes of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were highly influential and respected within the community. Many of them looked highly on themselves and treated their faith with pride and even jealousy, seeking praise and recognition for their piety and devotion to God.
And yet, in their hearts and minds, God was not present or that He was relegated to much less important position. That was why, although they were supposed to be the ones leading the people of Israel towards God, when He Himself appeared in their midst, they were the ones who opposed and rejected Him, harassing Him and criticising Him and His disciples at every possible opportunities. This was contrary to the action of the Syro-Phoenician woman, who humbled herself and had complete faith in God.
The Syro-Phoenician woman, a foreigner and a woman, a pagan and a nobody that everyone looked down on, was in fact the one who had faith in God greater than everyone else. That was why, by the words He uttered, the Lord Jesus wanted to make an example of the Syro-Phoenician faith to the people, how they ought to get rid of any prejudices they once had, and believe that ultimately, everyone is beloved by God, and that even those who were deemed as sinners could be saved, while those who proudly thought of themselves as righteous, fell along with their sin of pride, as what had happened to king Solomon and many among the Pharisees.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are therefore called to reflect on our lives and how we are to act in these lives and opportunities we have been given in this world. As Christians we are called to put God as the centre and the focus of our entire lives, and everything we say and do, should be in accordance to God’s will, and for the sake of His greater glory. Let us all get rid of pride and ego from our hearts and minds, purge away greed and desires from our beings that we may truly follow the example of the Syro-Phoenician woman in having such a strong faith in the Lord.
Let us do our best in whatever opportunities that God has granted us, that we may truly live our lives with genuine faith from now on, growing deeper in our relationship with God and in our faith and trust in Him, going forward in our lives. May the Lord continue to guide us and be with us, through each and every moments, through challenges and trials we may face in each of our journeys of life. Amen.