Jesus went to the district of Tyre. He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it, but he could not escape notice. Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied and said to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.” When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone (Mark 7:24-30).
When I read this Gospel early yesterday morning (2/9/23), it immediately resonated with me in a deep way, and I smiled to myself, understanding that God was speaking to my heart.
Here is the Lord, wanting some time away from the crowds during His full days of ministering to them. In His humanity, we can imagine He is tired; He has been talking and healing for hours. But alas, this is not to be. A woman, a Gentile, no less, has found Jesus, followed Him into the house, and then falls “at His feet.”
At first, He is noticeably a little irritated (although probably just responding in a clarifying manner) and tries to dismiss her. Jesus makes a comment about children and dogs, which scholars have argued has a variety of meanings, but ultimately suggests that He is at least appearing to be reluctant to help her. The woman, however, understanding His meaning, persists. Her love for her daughter is so great, her willingness to confront the Lord is so courageous and faithful, that Jesus cannot deny her. Even in this brief encounter, she and Jesus have formed a relationship—one of trust and love and faith. Jesus bears witness to the woman’s very real vulnerability, understands and hears her, and because of this frees her daughter from sin.
How many times have we suffered for our children? How many hours have we worried, sought answers, and committed ourselves to doing anything we can to alleviate their suffering, pain, and struggle? How many late nights and early mornings have we sat in prayer, asking the Lord to deliver them?
This mother in this story represents every one of us who has found the courage to become righteous warriors for our children—every one of us who is willing to go to the Lord, pleading for His merciful goodness and healing. It is not enough, however, just to ask for God’s help. Like this woman, we must remain determined to seek Him, follow Him, and then speak to Him with hearts fully open to His love. We cannot do this haphazardly. We cannot neglect Jesus for long periods of time and then only go to Him when we’re desperate. Of course, God can attend to us at any time. Even when we’ve been away from Him for a while, we can experience the healing of actual grace. But what this mother shows us is that when we are in relationship with Christ, when we are determined to find Him, be near Him, and ask for His understanding and help, He will always answer us.
Although in this story Jesus was seeking time away from the crowds, He actually wants us to look for and find Him. In fact it is our very suffering that serves to draw us close to Him. He knows this, which is why, when we call for Him in our pain, He is there to comfort and heal us.
At a time in our culture when women and mothers are often undermined and questioned, and when we sometimes ask ourselves if we have the courage to help our children through their sufferings, let this woman assure us we are in fact capable of doing just that. We cannot do it alone, however. As we cultivate our relationship with God, as we sit at the foot of the cross and integrate our pain with Jesus’s sacrifice, we are then in a position to best serve, care for, and lead our children.
Mirroring the humility and faith of this woman and of course, Our Lady, may we continue to seek God’s love and goodness. May we pursue Him with courage and fierceness. And may we know when He answers us that it is our faith, born out of the crucible of suffering, that has saved us.