Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded to be vigilant in our lives and to keep strongly to the faith that we have in the Lord, entrusting ourselves to Him and believing in His providence. We have to be careful and do not easily allow sin to creep into our hearts and minds, corrupting us and our conscience and thoughts, our actions and efforts. In order to do so, we must have strong faith in the Lord.
In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Kings of the account of the unfortunate downfall of King Solomon of Israel who allowed his many wives to distract and mislead him into sinful ways, as they established pagan worship and placed idols in many parts of the kingdom, which led the people into the worship of those false idols and they ended up falling deeper and deeper into sin as their descendants later did.
King Solomon did not remain faithful to God unlike his father David, who remained faithful throughout his life to the very end. Solomon was very wise and rich, powerful and mighty, and while we do not know exactly what led him to his choice of actions, but it might have to do with him trying to secure his power, reign and rule through worldly means, just as he married many wives from different states and neighbouring countries likely with the aim to gain diplomatic recognition and building relationships with those countries, gaining trade agreements and making arrangements to enrich themselves more.
However, the negative impact of such an arrangement and effort is that likely that would have required accommodation and changes in religious policy, including the toleration and even promotion of the pagan faith and worship as done by King Solomon and his wives. And that led him and the kingdom down the slippery slope towards sin. The Lord certainly did send reminders to Solomon through his prophets and messengers, but it was likely that these reminders fell on based on circumstances and the information we have in the Scriptures, he might have been tempted by the power and glory he had, to lose sight of what truly mattered.
Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord and His interaction with a Syro-Phoenician woman, a woman who came from the region of Phoenicia north of the traditional lands of the Israelites. As such, according to the Jewish viewpoint and customs at the time, she was considered as part of the Gentiles, or the non-Jewish people. The Jews always took great pride of their descent from the people of Israel, the chosen people of God, and the name Jew itself came from the word Judah, representing all those who have descended from the people of Judah, who remained faithful to the House of David and to God, at least for part of their history.
Therefore, as we heard the Lord speaking to the Syro-Phoenician woman, we may indeed be surprised to hear the tone and the harshness in the words He had chosen to use against the Syro-Phoenician woman. We may have thought that the Lord had reacted so uncharacteristically in His words and replies against the woman. However, if we try to understand the context of what happened back then and the societal aspects of the interaction, then we will quickly realise that the Lord in fact intended the exact opposite of what He had spoken to the woman.
Through what He had said to the woman, the Lord wanted to highlight to all of us the folly and the ugly nature of the sentiments and the opinions then prevailing among the Jews regarding their superiority and the exclusivity of their status as God’s chosen people, especially as interpreted by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, to the exclusion of others, even among the Jews themselves who were deemed to be less than worthy, and even less so the Gentiles, like that of the Syro-Phoenician woman, who as a non-Jew and as a woman must have been viewed very much less favourably.
And yet, despite all of that, the Syro-Phoenician woman held on to the faith she had in the Lord and kept firm in asking Him to heal her sick daughter, and she remained resolute in believing in Him despite all the harsh words and replies that she had gotten from the Lord. This proved that her faith in God was truly genuine and no amount of hardships and challenges were going to change that. The Lord knew it all already without Him even needing to ask her, as is He not an Almighty and all-knowing God? But yet, He still asked it from her, as He wanted her to proclaim the truth about her faith to all, to the shame of all those who claimed to be more faithful and yet, refused to believe in God.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in our readings today, we are reminded that we need to have that strong and genuine faith in God, and we have to resist the temptations of our personal desire and ambitions, the temptations of wealth and worldly pleasures that can easily mislead and misguide us in our journey of life. We have to heed the example of how King Solomon, the wise and great king of Israel had fallen into sin and disobedience against God because he failed to heed these, and resulted in great trouble and anguish for the people of God later on.
Today, we should look upon the good examples set by one of our holy predecessors, namely St. Scholastica, who was renowned for being the fraternal twin of St. Benedict of Nursia, another great and famous saint, and who herself helped to establish a community of religious and monastic sisters much as her brother was one of the pioneers of religious and monastic brothers and monks in Western Christendom at the time. St. Scholastica became one of the pioneers of female religious life in the Church.
And not only just that, as St. Scholastica was also exemplary in her faith as well, in the virtuous life she lived in, and in all that she had done in contributing to the good of her religious community and to the wider Christian community, of all the faithful people of God. She and her fellow religious sisters were also involved in charitable works and education among other things, and their commitment to the service of God should become our great inspirations, as role model for us to follow in our own lives.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek to glorify God by our own lives and let us do whatever we can to serve Him through our actions and deeds, our words and interactions throughout our lives, even in the smallest things we do. Let our lives and faith be like that of St. Scholastica and like the faith of the Syro-Phoenician woman, distancing ourselves from sin and being vigilant against worldly temptations just as the example of King Solomon and his downfall ought to have taught us. May the Lord be our Guide and may He strengthen our resolve and commitment to live faithfully in His presence, always and at all times. Amen.