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Contemplating today's Gospel

Today's Gospel + homily (in 300 words)

Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
1st Reading (1Kgs 11:4-13): When Solomon was old his wives had turned his heart to strange gods, and his heart was not entirely with the Lord, his God, as the heart of his father David had been. By adoring Astarte, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom, the idol of the Ammonites, Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not follow him unreservedly as his father David had done. Solomon then built a high place to Chemosh, the idol of Moab, and to Molech, the idol of the Ammonites, on the hill opposite Jerusalem. He did the same for all his foreign wives who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.

The Lord, therefore, became angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice (for though the Lord had forbidden him this very act of following strange gods, Solomon had not obeyed him). So the Lord said to Solomon: «Since this is what you want, and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I enjoined on you, I will deprive you of the kingdom and give it to your servant. I will not do this during your lifetime, however, for the sake of your father David; it is your son whom I will deprive. Nor will I take away the whole kingdom. I will leave your son one tribe for the sake of my servant David and of Jerusalem, which I have chosen».
Responsorial Psalm: 105
R/. Remember us, o Lord, as you favor your people.
Blessed are they who observe what is right, who do always what is just. Remember us, o Lord, as you favor your people; visit us with your saving help.

But they mingled with the nations and learned their works. They served their idols, which became a snare for them.

They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons. And the Lord grew angry with his people, and abhorred his inheritance.
Versicle before the Gospel (Jas 1:21bc): Alleluia. Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls. Alleluia.
Gospel text (Mk 7:24-30): Jesus went to the district of Tyre. He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it, but he could not escape notice. Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied and said to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.” When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

“Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet.”

Fr. Enric CASES i Martín (Barcelona, Spain)

Today, we see the faith of a woman who did not belong to God's chosen people, but trusted Jesus could cure her daughter. That mother “was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter” (Mk 7:26). Pain and love bring her to insistently beg, ignoring scorn, delays or indignities. And she gets what she is asking for, as “When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone” (Mk 7:30).

Saint Augustine used to say that our prayers are not heard because we ask “aut mali, aut male, aut mala.” “Mali”, because we are evil, for that our personal dispositions are not good, or they are bad, and we should be asking for, in the first place, to become good; “male” because we pray badly, without faith, not persevering, not humbly; “mala” because we ask for bad things, that is, things which are not good for us, things which can harm us. In the last analysis, prayer is ineffective when it is not true prayer. Therefore, “Pray. In what human venture could you have greater guarantee of success?” (Saint Josemaria Escrivá). The Syrophoenician woman is a good mother; she was begging something good (“she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter”) and she begged rightly (“and came and fell at his feet”).

Our Lord wants us to use insistently the petition prayer or prayer of faith. There are, indeed, other kinds of prayers —worship, salvation, prayer of thanks—, but Jesus insists very much on our often using the petition prayer.

Why? There could be many reasons: because we need God's help to attain our greatest aim; because it expresses hope and love; because it is a clamor of faith. But there is also a motive that perhaps is sometimes ignored: God wants things to be a little as we like them. Thus, our petition —which is an act of freedom— along with God's omnipotent power, can contribute to make the world as God wishes and a little as we wish, too. The power of prayer is just wonderful!

Thoughts on Today's Gospel

  • “Our prayer is not heard because we ask badly, without trust in God or lacking humility and perseverance.” (Saint Augustine)

  • “Jesus praises the Syro-Phoenician woman who asks with insistence for the healing of her daughter. Insistence, even though she is tired, but this is an attitude of prayer. Saint Teresa speaks of prayer as a negotiation with the Lord.” (Francis)

  • “Just as Jesus prays to the Father and gives thanks before receiving his gifts, so he teaches us filial boldness: ‘Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will’ (Mk 1:24). Such is the power of prayer and of faith that does not doubt (Mt 21:22): ‘all things are possible to him who believes’ (Mk 9:23) (…)” (Catechism Of The Catholic Church, Nº 2610)