Jesus and the Syrophoenician Woman

In today’s Gospel from St. Mark, Jesus encounters a woman who asks him to heal her daughter, who was being tormented by an unclean spirit. Mark tells us that the woman “was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth.”

Jesus response to the woman is harsh: “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Matthew’s version of this encounter embellishes the response, with Jesus explaining,”I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

The woman, however, does not accept no for an answer. She argues, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Her argument prevails and Jesus heals her daughter.

Jesus was open to growing into a wider understanding of his mission – an understanding that would lead him to later tell his disciples to go not only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but to proclaim the gospel throughout the whole world.

This encounter provides a good lesson for us. When we are so sure that we have it right, it is good to remember that even Jesus needed to grow into an understanding of his mission. It was not fully clear to him from the get-go. Fully human as well as fully divine, Jesus had to grow in knowledge and understanding.

And if he had to grow, surely we do as well.