08 February 2007


Thursday of the 5th Week in Ordinary Time
Mk 7:24-30

From Gennesaret, Jesus goes today to a certain place named “Tyre”. This place can well be remembered among the different places mentioned in the Gospels because it is unique in the sense that two huge rocks poke out just of its shores. The name of this place speaks well of its peculiarity. “Tyre” means “the rock”.

As Jesus enters Tyre today, a Syrophoenician woman meets Him in this place called “the rock”. One who knows the deep differences between the worlds where Jesus and this woman are coming from can easily see that there stands more than one rock in this unexpected rendezvous. Five rocks to be exact!

First, the woman is a Gentile. Jews – and Jesus is a Jew – do not associate with Gentiles. Mingling with Gentiles makes a Jew unclean. And “associating with Gentiles” has a large scope; it includes even a short chat with them. This rock is already to big to start with.

Second, the Syrophoenician is a woman. Jewish rabbis do not speak with a woman in public. And Jesus, though bereft of formal rabbinic training, is considered by the people as a rabbi. This rock is too large to be ignored.

Third, the Syrophoenician woman requests Jesus for healing at a distance. While Jesus can undoubtedly perform remote healing without much effort, this request – coming from a Gentile and a woman – is a precedent in the Gospel of Mark. While prior to Mark 7:24-30, Jesus already healed many from various kinds of afflictions, He healed them by either touching them or being touched by them personally. This third rock may not be difficult for Jesus at all, but it is very daring for the woman to climb it.

Fourth, Jesus seems to be reluctant to grants the daring request. His words appear to be brutally frank, even insulting, “The children should be fed first, because it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.” The fourth rock is most painful to be hit with, I suppose.

The fifth rock is that all these things happen today in public. The public observes the meeting of the two. The public knows the differences between the two. The public hears the exchanges between the two. The public sees more than just the two huge rocks from which the city of Tyre got its name.

But no rock is too hard to climb and conquer when love and faith meet. Jesus represents love, while the Syrophoenician, faith. When the love of the Lord and faith in Him embrace each other, all rocks – no matter how inevitable and invincible they seem – crumble into pieces. Then the public witnesses that God, indeed, makes a way where there seems to be no way.

Rocks do not necessarily mean blocks. It depends on us what role they play in our journey through life. Two individuals standing before the same huge rock may deal with it extremely differently. One may consider it as a hopeless dead-end while the other may take it as a challenge to conquer. When love and faith work together, nothing is impossible to conquer and dead-ends miraculously turn into mere bends along the way.

So, what do we do with our rocks in life? Bump our heads into them or step on them with our feet as we climb them with the wings of faith and the wind of love? The choice is ours. Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman made theirs today. When do we make ours?


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