Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
February 11, 2021
Genesis 2:18-25; Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5; Mark 7:24-30
How many of you are dog lovers? Christine and I certainly are. We have two English Mastiffs and a Chihuahua. In case you are wondering, the Chihuahua is the alpha dog of this pack.
Jesus calls the Greek woman in today’s gospel a dog. At this time in history dogs didn’t enjoy the same status as they do today in our culture. Dogs were not the adorable pets they are today in the United States, where in 2019 we spent $95.7 billion on our pets. They share our homes, our beds and we excuse them when they chew up our furniture or our shoes.
In Jesus time it was different. People had an entirely different view of dogs. Physical violence toward dogs was considered acceptable. There was no PETA to call out crimes against dogs. Dogs had a very low status in ancient Israel and when someone was called a dog, it meant that they were considered to be evil.
To the Jews, anyone who was not a Jew was a dog. Such was the Greek woman Jesus encounters today. Like any Jew of the day would think, Jesus initially considered her to be a dog, not worthy of his time or attention. But when he witnessed her faith, he thought differently. Her faith was what was most important to him, not her ethnicity.
When I read this gospel passage, I think of what it is about my dogs that I love so much. I think about their characteristics that endear them to me and how these qualities of my dogs should translate to my faith, to my devotional life.
A dog is faithful. No matter what we do or say to them, they always love us. They wait for us to return when we leave them. A dog is always excited to see us when we’ve been away. They look at us with eyes of devotion. We are the master for whom they would do anything. Are we as faithful to our professed Christian beliefs as our dogs are to us?
A dog is obedient, at least the well-trained ones are. It doesn’t take more than a simple treat to get and keep a dog’s attention. They do what we tell them to do, when we tell them to do it. This endears them to us, just as it pleases God when we are obedient to his teachings, the teachings of his Church and the demands of our faith.
Dogs are grateful. When we give them our attention and love, they return it by giving us their undivided attention and their grateful gaze. Are we are as grateful to God for all he has done for us, as our dogs are to us?
Finally, a dog is persistent. When a dog wants something it lets us know and won’t stop asking until it either gets what it wants or we command it to go away. And even if we tell a dog to go away, it will come back later to ask again. Like the Greek woman, a dog doesn’t give up. Are we as persistent in our prayer life as a dog is when it wants something? Throughout scripture God tells us to be persistent and he rewards us for it.
We can all learn a great deal about faithfulness, obedience, gratitude and persistence from our dogs. My prayer is that my faith life and yours might become more and more like that of a faithful dog to his master.
I pray that we might always be willing to drop everything to listen to him, no matter the circumstances. That we might always be obedient to his will and show our appreciation for everything he does for us. Finally, may we never be afraid to persistently petition God for our needs and for the needs of others, even when he doesn’t seem to be answering our prayers.
Dear friends, let us ask our Master to inspire us to become more and more like a faithful and obedient dog, listening to and acting upon his words, staying close to his side all the days of our lives. Like the Greek woman in today’s gospel reading, let us show him our great faith in his love and concern for each of us. Let us never doubt his desire to heal us from our infirmities and to forgive us our sins.