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‘No’ Is a ‘Yes’ to Something Better

Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Genesis 2:18-25

The LORD God said:
“It is not good for the man to be alone.
I will make a suitable partner for him.”
So the LORD God formed out of the ground
various wild animals and various birds of the air,
and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them;
whatever the man called each of them would be its name.
The man gave names to all the cattle,
all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals;
but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man.

So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man,
and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs
and closed up its place with flesh.
The LORD God then built up into a woman
the rib that he had taken from the man.
When he brought her to the man, the man said:

“This one, at last, is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called ‘woman,’
for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother
and clings to his wife,
and the two of them become one flesh.

The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

R. (see 1a) Blessed are those who fear the Lord.
Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
who walk in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
Your children like olive plants
around your table.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.
Behold, thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion:
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.

Gospel: Mark 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.

NAB

Whenever I hear this Gospel passage my initial thought is, “Geez, why is Jesus so hard on this poor woman? What did He wake up on the wrong side of the bed or something?” Of course, we know that we don’t know why He would react to her this way, but still it seems harsh.

After doing a little digging with a Biblical commentary, the overall story makes much more sense to me.

Tyre was a mostly Gentile city in present day Lebanon, making this woman a gentile. In  Saint Matthew’s account of this same story Jesus tells the woman “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Mt. 15:24) Jesus’ ministry was to bring the New Covenant first to the recipients of the Old Covenant, the people of Israel. It wasn’t until after His death and resurrection that this New Covenant was preached to all peoples.  But in today’s Gospel, Jesus makes an exception for this woman. Why?

This woman is of a different religion and ethnic background, but something deep inside still draws her to Jesus. With great faith she falls at His feet and calls Him Lord. And more amazingly when Jesus is harsh with her, she is not put off in the least, but only presses into Him further. Can you imagine His smile at this woman’s bold chutzpah? Even though Jesus seems to reject her request, He was really looking to evoke a deep faith, the kind of faith He finds impossible to refuse. The kind of faith we all desperately want more of in our walk with the Lord.

There have been many times I felt really disheartened by setbacks in my life: broken relationships, not getting the job I really wanted, paying off my school debt, physical sickness, etc. This Syrophoenician woman is actually a model for us as Christian women. She is not the first or last person coming to Jesus with an urgent request who was met with a response that she did not expect. Sometimes Christ is asking us to bear our crosses a bit longer. But the setbacks do not hold her back; they draw her even closer to Jesus. How many times in our lives, families, ministry, jobs, school, or relationships have we felt like this? Do our setbacks in life draw us closer to the heart of Jesus?

The takeaway for us is God does hear our prayers, even those ones that don’t get answered they way we want. And sometimes when Jesus says ‘No,’ His refusals are meant to awaken in us a deeper, richer faith. His ‘No’ is a ‘Yes’ to something else in store for us.

Lord Jesus, please help me to remember Your ‘No’s’ are always a ‘Yes’ to something better You have for me. Let me never stop from pressing into Your heart like this woman. I do not always understand Your plan, but I can always trust it.

Patty Breen is a runner, youth minister ordinaire, and thinks old movies are the greatest thing since sliced bread. When not fundraising for World Youth Day, she is learning to find grace in all things. You can find out more about her here.

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