Thursday in the 5th Week of the Year, February 13, 2020

Salvation Is Open To All Humans
Chosen by God, builder of the Temple, endowed with wisdom, at the height of power and riches, Solomon abandoned God and his covenant. The sacred writer seems to wonder how so great a man could have fallen so low. God’s grace, if not used, gives no security.
Despised pagans too, are offered salvation. The doctors of the Law had called the region where Jesus worked this miracle a region of dogs. God lifts up the lowly who believe. Grace is no exclusive privilege for God’s people. The kingdom is also for pagans.

1 Reading: 1 Kings 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 PS 106:3-4, 35-36, 37 and 40
R. (4a) Remember us, O Lord, as you favour your people.

Blessed are they who observe what is right,
who do always what is just.
Remember us, O LORD, as you favour your people;
visit us with your saving help. R.

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

They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to demons.
And the LORD grew angry with his people,
and abhorred his inheritance. R.

Alleluia James 1:21bc
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you
and is able to save your souls.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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.

Two thoughts emerge from today’s readings: “Politics over faith” and “faith over politics.” The admiration we have had for Solomon up to this point is today badly shattered as we are brought face to face with his idolatry, his pandering to the religious interests of his pagan wives, and his construction of pagan worship sites. We are faced with an aching question: How could a man, divinely chosen and blessed with many gifts, fall to such a low level?
The disfavour of God is clearly registered in the text. Solomon’s punishment will be political. The country that David had unified will be dismembered and form a northern and southern kingdom. The south will have only one tribe, Judah, with the other tribes making up the north. Solomon had made personal choices that overrode those of God. Now the price would have to be paid.
Faith brings the Syro-Phoenician woman to Jesus in the hopes of obtaining a cure for her daughter. The picture is an unusual one. The woman is a pagan. Not only is she a foreigner but a woman at that. Not concerned with social taboos, she addresses Jesus directly and is initially rebuffed. What may seem like untoward speech on Jesus’ part is actually a form of verbal sparring to test the woman’s tenacity. When Jesus expresses unwillingness to throw the food of “children” (the Jewish people) to “the dogs” (Gentile outsiders), the woman cleverly replies that even the dogs eat the scraps the children feed them. Her conviction wins out, and her daughter is healed. Faith has won over politics.
People sometimes are so fixed on their political outlook that they cannot see beyond it. Politics took Solomon away from his faith, while the faith of the Syro-Phoenician woman was emboldened by political obstacles. Both accounts today offer us, not only food for thought, but thought for food.

May there be room in this house, that is, in our Christian communities, for all people, whatever their race or social class, their culture or education may be. May Almighty God bless you all, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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