One Gospel story made me a little upset with Jesus was this story of the Syrophoenician woman. Why should Jesus be so harsh with that lady? He could have simply said no to her. Why should he call her a dog? Was that a sign of arrogance? Or was that an opportunity given to that woman to deepen the faith of others who were with him? I would like to present to you an article written in a story form from the world renowned journal ‘Concilium’
‘My name is Eunice, a Greek name which means ‘good victory’. My mother started calling me that many years ago, when I was still a child and lived with her, a widow already in Tyre the Syrophoneican city in which she was born and so was I. Now I live in Antioch and I married Jonathan. Jonathan was born a Jew, but embraced Christianity. He owed his faith in Jesus the Messiah to some wandering preachers who came to Antioch. The fact that I was a pagan did not stop him from asking me to marry him.
Before we married, he suggested that I should be baptized and so at the Easter vigil I received baptism. We used to go together for worship. There were two groups of Christians, one group the Jews who became Christians and the others are Gentile converts. These Judaizers (Jews who became Christians) always looked at me with contempt because they knew of our love story and my origin.
Once one of the Judaizers told my husband that he would not have married a Canaanite woman, who is unclean. This word unclean disturbed me a lot. People who are possessed by demons are called people with unclean spirit. I did not want to come back for worship again. I was very much disturbed. After a month Jonathan persuaded me to join him. He told me that a preacher named Mark is going to come. This Mark is a relative of Barnabas and been with Peter and Paul. I went reluctantly.
This Mark was quite understanding towards the Christian with Gentile origin. He was busy writing the story of Jesus. One of the Judaizers quoted Rabbi Eliezer to Mark saying ‘those who eat with idolaters are like those who eat with dogs’. The mention of dogs dragged me with force of a furious wind to what my mother had told me so often. I immediately told Mark, ‘If you are going to write about Jesus, let me tell you something you might like to know about him.
When I was little I was possessed by demon. I suffered in anguish and terror. My mother could not bear seeing me suffering. She tried several ways and approached several people to get me alright. It was after one of these crises she heard of a person called Jesus whose healing powers everyone was talking about and who happened to have crossed Galilee. She decided to go to him. When she saw him, she was afraid. She knew that a Jew would not like to do a favour to a Gentile. But for my mother I was very important, humiliation of any kind was not a problem. She gathered courage went and knelt in front of him and asked him ‘Lord, My little daughter has a demon, please help me’. As she expected Jesus told her ‘I cannot give the food of the children to the house dogs’. She did not raise her eyes, but gained confidence and challenged him. ‘Did there have to be a before and after? Why could not children and dogs be looked after at the same time? She finished the sentence with stumbling voice. The next sentence my mother heard was ‘Woman your faith is great, go home’.
My mother thanked Jesus with tears ran back home to see me lying on my bed with a peaceful expression of someone who was resting after having won a battle. On that day I was named Eunice by my mother.
When I finished my story, there was a heavy silence. Mark spoke ‘Brothers this is what Paul in his letter to Galatians meant when he said ‘In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. There is no longer Jew or Greek there is no longer slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ Jesus. I never saw Mark again, but I heard that he recorded my story in his gospel.
I have often asked myself what was it that he found in what she said, and why that became a highroad along which his healing power could travel. I believe that what amazed him was to find in a foreign woman such a deep affinity, faith and trust in the Lord.
Yes dear friends, this could be story of anyone of us. It is true that Jesus’ words are harsh, but the Son of God has a purpose in all that He does. Instead of questioning why He spoke that way, it is high time to evaluate our faith. Many of the brothers of other faith receive more blessings from Him simply because of their profound faith. We Catholics, often times live like people without faith. If there is delay in God’s response, we lose our faith. Let us not wait for a non- Christian to teach us the lesson of faith.
Jesus and the Syrophoenician Woman: A Tale from the Margins- Dolores Aleixandre