13th February. Thursday, Week Five
1st Reading: 1 Kings 11:4-13
(Solomon’s sins are traced to the influence of his pagan wives; as punishment his kingdom will be divided.)
For when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon followed Astarte the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not completely follow the Lord, as his father David had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who offered incense and sacrificed to their gods.
Then the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this matter, that he should not follow other gods; but he did not observe what the Lord commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of your father David I will not do it in your lifetime; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. I will not, however, tear away the entire kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”
Gospel: Mark 7:24-30
(By persevering faith, a Syro-Phoenician woman gets Jesus to cure her daughter, despite his initial reluctance.)
From there he 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 Syro-phoenician 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.” The 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.
Generosity between the genders
Today’s texts invite reflection about the relationship of the sexes, in family, friendship and community. The God-given difference of man and woman along with diversity in personality, talents and interests help to complement each other and challenge one another to grow. Many generous women in the Scriptures can serve as models for both men and women, just as generous men provide examples for both women and men. What is scattered and fragmented must be reunited in Jesus, for as Paul says: “among you it is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28-29). Belonging to Jesus, then, in a radical way heals all fragmentation arising from gender or race.
Love and friendship make many demands on our generosity. How difficult this can be is shown in the Gospel today. Jesus is reluctant to divert attention away from his own chosen people, Israel, to attend to the pagan woman. There is no simple way to soften the harsh reply attributed to him, except perhaps that he would not repeat the mistakes of Solomon and interact closely with foreign women. The apparent rejection is healed by the woman’s humility, perseverance and love for her child. Not for selfish pleasure or personal gain, but for the sake of her daughter, the woman overturns Jesus’ harsh-sounding words by replying: “but even the dogs under the table eat the family’s leavings.” This answer overcomes his first objections, and (smilingly perhaps) Jesus proceeds to heal the woman’s daughter–a splendid example of gentle perseverance rewarded.