Wrestling with Faith

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Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin 


Mark 7:24-30

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.


Opening Prayer: Good Jesus, you have invited me to this time of prayer, this encounter, with you. You have something you wish to say to me today, some grace you want to give me. And you know how much I need you. Open my heart to receive your word. Come, Holy Spirit, help me to hear you and to respond. 


Encountering Christ: 


  1. Deliberately: In the passage before this one, St. Mark presented Jesus in Gennesaret. Now, he travels to the district of Tyre, an important trade city of the Roman Empire at that time. Let’s just say it was not a typical route to travel, since he had to cross a ridge of mountains alongside the Mediterranean coast to get there from where he was. For some reason, Jesus wanted to be there. Mark tells us he wanted to escape notice. Perhaps he needed some time alone to rest. Or perhaps he went there deliberately to find a soul in need of him–a foreigner–who otherwise would have had no access to him. What does this tell us, in our current reality, about the gratuity of God’s providence and the universality of his message for all? 
  2. A Mother’s Prayer: How did Jesus receive the prayers of a mother? We know the example of St. Monica, who wept and prayed for the conversion of her son Augustine. St. Ambrose told her: “The son of these tears cannot be lost.” Perhaps St. Ambrose himself was inspired by the way Jesus received the prayers of this Syrophoenician mother. In any case, it reminds us of the filial, loving attention Jesus gives to the intercession of his Mother Mary. Our God, who became like us in all things but sin, also wanted to have a mother like we do, and even to give her to us as our own mother (cf. John 19). His heart, human and divine, cannot help but be moved by a mother’s prayer. 
  3. Dialogue in Humor and Faith: The dialogue between Jesus and this Gentile woman is striking, if not upsetting, at first glance. Michael Pakaluk, who offers a fresh translation of St. Mark’s original Greek in his book The Memoirs of St. Peter says this is not a parable about who is better–Jew or Greek–but about priorities. Jesus had come to proclaim salvation first to the Jews, the Chosen People his Father had prepared, and then to the Gentiles (the task he would give to his Apostles, cf. Matthew 28:19). He said as much to the woman in his “parable” (riddle, almost) about children and dogs. She in turn took that parable and turned it back to Jesus: even while the children eat at the table, the dogs are fed, too, by the crumbs. She was not turned away by an answer from Jesus that she did not entirely understand; she embraced it, in faith, and responded as best she could. Jesus saw her faith and blessed her. Let us learn from this woman how to dialogue with the Lord with humor and openness, just as we are, and from there, let faith grow. 


Conversing with Christ: Jesus, you come out to seek me, too, just as you did this woman. You have a tender place in your heart for a mother’s intercession. I therefore entrust all my needs to your Mother’s faithful and good hands, that she may present them to you. Help me, Jesus, teach me, to dialogue with you—not to be afraid to wrestle, even, in faith, with the way you are acting in my life. You yourself are the crumbs which fall from the table: the Eucharist, which you come to give me, from your altar. I will make the effort to come to you, Lord. Come to my heart in response. 


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will make a spiritual communion, and speak to you in my heart about what I most need. 


For Further Reflection: You may wish to read the passage of the widow of Nain in light of this one (and vice-versa), reflecting on how Jesus received these prayers of mothers, and how that may speak to your own relationship with Mary, Jesus’ Mother and ours.


Beth Van de Voorde is a Regnum Christi Consecrated Woman, currently serving in pastoral ministry to families in Madrid and Valencia, Spain. When she’s not reading Ratzinger or humming along to some song or another, you may find her making her pilgrim way through Spain’s timeless history of faith, walking alongside the beautiful families and young people she’s there to serve.

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