IN JUNE JESUS RETIRED with His disciples into the district of Tyre and Sidon, partly to avoid the growing hostility in Galilee, partly because He wished to instruct the apostles in quiet seclusion.
The region was essentially pagan, the Phoenicians being descendants of the aboriginal Canaanites. However, there were many there who had heard of Jesus, and some had even been present at the Sermon on the Mount. Thus, though He was traveling incognito, His identity was soon discovered and the word of His coming spread about.
In a village near the border a Gentile woman, a Syrophoenician, came to Christ and asked Him to help her, saying:
“Have pity on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is sorely beset by a devil.”
She continued to beseech Him, and the disciples in embarrassment asked Jesus to grant her plea and dismiss her.
But He said:
“I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. “
The gospel was to be preached first in Israel, and only later to the Gentiles. But the woman knew nothing of this, and when Jesus entered a house in the village, she followed Him in and persisted in her requests for her daughter.
Finally, Jesus replied, explaining with a kind of wry humor, that the Jews, who called themselves the “children of God,” were His first concern:
“Let the children first have their fill, for it is not fair to take the children’s bread and to cast it to the dogs.”
But the woman replied in the same vein, saying:
“Yes, Lord; for even the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs.”
Jesus was touched by her faith and courage. Smiling He said to her:
“Because of this answer, go thy way; the devil has gone out of thy daughter.”
And returning home, she found her daughter cured.
Meditation: At her first request our Lord did not even speak to the Syrophoenician woman. When His disciples pressed Him, He explained that she was not included in the ambit of His mission. But she persevered in her plea, and finally Christ granted her request. She is a model of perseverance in prayer. Even the rather harsh comparison between the children and the dogs did not deter her. Has our prayer the same constancy and perseverance?
Information from The Life of Christ “Our Lord’s Life with Lesson in His Own Words for Our Life Today” The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 103-104. © 1954 edited by Reverend John P. O’Connell, MASTD and Jex Martin, following mainly A Chronological Harmony of the Gospels by Stephen J Hartdegen OFM NIHIL OBSTAT John A McMahon; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago August 1, 1953. Print. Drawing by Albert H Winkler.