1 Kings 11:4-13
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.
No amount of biblical gymnastics can soften the insulting words of Jesus. He called this nameless Syrophoenician woman a dog. She begged Jesus to heal her daughter, but he compared her to a dog and the Jews to children around the table to whom he’s feeding bread.
But this woman’s faith was unshaken. She understood what Jesus meant. She’s not a Jew; she is not one of the "children" but one of the "dogs." She’s an outsider. And she also understood that Jesus gives out bread. She was willing to beg for the crumbs she knew she didn’t deserve. She appealed to his mercy, not his justice.
Jesus saw the woman’s great faith and healed her daughter.
The faith – and humility – of this nameless woman, stands in stark contrast to anyone who believes that God owes us – owes us a good life, owes us happiness, owes us a great job, owes us trial-free life. We deserve it; after all, we’re faithful Catholics, we never miss Mass, we pray the rosary. These are good practices, don’t get me wrong. But God’s grace isn’t something we purchase with our good works. God’s grace is rich and complex, his love for us is freely given, pure gift.
Why doesn’t Scripture give us the woman’s name? It does. It’s your name and mine.
In sin, we all stand as outsiders. In faith, we are invited to stand at the table with that nameless woman and humbly beg for God’s crumbs.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.