HOMILY FOR THURSDAY OF THE 5TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B]
THEME: The astuteness of the Syro-Phoenician woman.
BY: Fr Deotacious Chikontwe SMA
READINGS OF THE DAY
1 Kings 11:4-13
Good morning my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time of Year B.
FROM OUR FIRST READING
Both readings today feature pagans as well as Jews. The portrayal of pagans in the first reading is decidedly negative. King Solomon had pagan wives. In this way, he could establish good relations with the pagan nations that surrounded his kingdom. However, according to our reading, his pagan wives turned his heart away from the God of Israel. He built temples for the pagan gods whom his wives worshipped, showing that his heart was not wholly with the Lord, the God of Israel.
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FROM OUR FIRST READING
In contrast, the gospel reading has a very positive portrayal of a pagan woman. Jesus travels to the north west of Galilee, to the region of Tyre, in modern-day Lebanon, an area that was predominantly pagan, even though not devoid of Jews. A pagan woman approached Jesus and displays a strikingly tenacious faith in his power to heal her daughter. She holds on to her faith in Jesus, in spite of Jesus’ efforts to turn her aside. Sometimes in the gospels, people who show faith in Jesus are turned aside by Jesus’ disciples. The blind man Bartimaeus comes to mind. Here, however, it is Jesus himself who seems to turn away a person who shows faith in him, just because she is a pagan. Jesus announces to her that ‘the children should be fed first’. He is declaring that the people of Israel, God’s children, are his primary focus, for the moment.
Jesus’ reference to the unfairness of taking the food that is intended for the children and throwing it to the house dogs seems rather harsh. The woman isn’t put off. She is happy to identify herself with the house dogs in Jesus’ image, declaring that, in many households, while the children are eating the house dogs can nibble on the scraps that the children let fall. The pagans shouldn’t have to wait; Jews and pagans can be fed together. Jesus seems to take her point; he grants her request. Perhaps one of the messages of this striking passage is that there is nothing wrong with an argumentative faith, especially when the one we are arguing with is the Lord himself. Jesus recognized that God was speaking to him through this pagan woman. How is God speaking to us today? Perhaps he is speaking through those we would consider very different from us, even alien to us. As Saint John says in his gospel, the Spirit blows where it pleases. We need that flexibility of Jesus to respond to the ways that God may be speaking to us through the most unexpected of people.
The Lord be with You.
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