From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.' So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
(Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)
Have you ever felt called by God to do something only to discover it was, actually to do something else? After years of working in a Local Ecumenical Project as a Deaconess it was time to move on. I had helped initiate the whole project in the Community Centre starting new work and handing the jobs over to others. But what work was there for me now? I thought God had called me to parish ministry, but women were still not accepted as priests! So I thought God was having a laugh when I landed the job as a Diocesan Children's and RE Adviser, with over a 100 schools and 260 parishes. But there was a hidden message, for what I learnt proved to be a wonderful basis for parish work later on
In our reading from Mark's Gospel today we see Jesus fleeing from all the pressures, trying to find some sanctuary. He has been sought by the Pharisees, the Scribes, Herod, and hordes of needy people. So we find him in Gentile territory miles north of Capernaum. Although the area had originally been allocated to the tribe of Asher centuries before it had never been colonised by the Jews, and was now part of Syria. This is where the Syro-Phoenician woman finds him and asks for his help to cure her daughter She kneels before him, calling him 'Sir' (ie Lord, or God) and her quick wit elicits help from Jesus. He uses the Greek word for a little lap-dog - but she responds by saying that even the lap-dogs are fed when the children throw their bread (used as plates) down for them.
The important message of this incident is not necessarily obvious. Jesus seems to just be trying to find sanctuary and carries out a seemingly random healing because of a woman's faith But this is to be applied to the future. For the message of the Gospel will be rejected by most of the Jewish world but will be embraced by gentiles around the world.
The Kingdom of God is to be open to everyone, whatever their race, gender, or status, who seeks with faith!
sometimes we plan our own future
and wonder why it doesn't work out.
Sometimes You make us wait,
or call us to different work.
Sometimes we get the messages wrong
and move in the wrong direction.
Help us to be quick to follow Your guidance,
and ready to change when needed.