Scraps from the Table: Mark 7:24-30

syro-phonecian woman

We’re reading at Mass today the story of the Syrophoenician woman who asks Jesus to cure her daughter. Mark 7, 24-30

My mother (God rest her) used to sneak food under the table regularly to her beloved cocker spaniel, Buffy. Once when I visited home after becoming a priest I said–in a losing attempt to keep Buffy’s weight down– “Mom, you shouldn’t feed that dog scraps from the table.”

She replied, “You don’t live her. He does. Besides, I’m not feeding him scraps from the table. He’s eating the same food we eat.”

I could never understand all the logic of her answer, but I gave us trying to stop her. I remember her every time this gospel is read. She put me in my place.

Maybe that’s what the Syrophoenician woman did to Jesus when she met him on his excursion north into gentile territory near Tyre.

Father John Donohue, SJ, offers an intriguing commentary on Jesus and this woman in Mark’s gospel. (The Gospel of Mark, John Donohue, SJ and Daniel Harrington, SJ (Sacra Pagina), Collegeville, Minnesota 2002. ) Their meeting takes place  following the feeding of the 5,000 in Jewish territory (Mark 6, 30-44) and Jesus’ announcement to the Pharisees and the scribes from Jerusalem that “all food is clean.” As a sign that the gentiles too would receive the Bread of Life from his hands, Jesus journeys into gentile territory to feed another 4,000. (Mark 8,1-10)

Now, you would expect him to welcome any gentile he met near Tyre, but the woman who meets Jesus alone in a house is harshly rejected when she asks him to heal her daughter. “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

The woman doesn’t take no for an answer. “Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps, Lord.”

Matthew’s gospel, written after Mark, says the woman’s daughter was healed because of her faith. Not so, Father Donohue says. According to Mark, it was because she got the best of her argument with Jesus, the only one who does that in the gospels. “It’s not right to ignore us,” the woman says to him. Jesus heard the truth from her and accepted it.

3 thoughts on “Scraps from the Table: Mark 7:24-30

  1. Harry warren

    Fr Victor. I am always tickled when you use quotes from your mother. “Well, we got this far…” Has been a reminder of her simple wisdom. Nothing incongruous about those two words, simple and wisdom. Harry

    Like

  2. Gloria

    Fr. Victor, Just read today’s reading a little while ago First Kings and the psalm were sad but the Syrophoenician woman was a day brightener. I always enjoy that story. Love the story about your mom and her dog. It
    reminds me of two ladies in our neighborhood and their dogs, which were
    large dogs who got fatter and fatter and they couldn’t understand why
    because they “never fed them anything but their regular dog food.”

    Like

  3. Liz Forest

    She didn’t take no for an answer! This woman reminds me that in prayer I can plead my cause before the throne of Mercy. Even if I make myself a bit of a nuisance, the Lord hears the cry of the broken-hearted. Alleluia!

    Like

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