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Fr. Michael Kelly SJ
The Syro-Phoenician Woman And Jesus
- February 9, 2012
The woman is initially ignored by Jesus, but she persists in her pleas. The disciples are irritated by her persistence, and beg Jesus to ādo something to get rid of herā. Jesus dismisses the womanās right to a miracle (āI was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and to them aloneā) and ridicules her petition (āit isnāt right to take the childrenās bread and throw it to the dogsā). This exchange of conversation doesnāt dishearten the woman; it only increases her faith. She comes back with the riposte: āeven the dogs eat the scraps which fall from their masterās tableā. The only recorded instance, I believe, of a woman having the last word with Jesus -- and getting her way with him!
Jesusās final word of appreciation to her is: āWoman, what faith you have! Be it as you wish!ā
Scattered throughout the pages of the Gospel are these āone linersā, these prayers of faith, the prayers of the āplain men and womenā who encountered Jesus. What they beg for comes straight from the heart. They usually ask for a boon, or intercede for a dear one. Their cries are incessant, in spite of the shooing and booing of the passers by. The classic āplain manāsā prayer, repeated in this episode too, is that of the blind Bartimaeus, a great favourite of St. Francis Xavier: āJesus, son of David, have mercy on me!ā
In our times of depression and sadness, in our times of abject need, let us make these prayers our own.