The Syrophoenician WomanPentecost 15, Mark 7:24-37
Celebrate with me this woman,
this bold Syrophoenician woman,
facing prejudice and limits,
walking out alone in public,
daring to accost this stranger
who was hiding in seclusion.
Those offended sneered and muttered
slurs that mocked her race and gender,
called her “prostitute”, rejecting
such impertinent intrusion.
Courtesan perhaps she might be,
scholars say now who examine
her sophisticated language
and the skill of her rebuttal,
begging with undaunted purpose
for the sake of her own daughter,
and the daughter generations
held in thrall by unclean spirits –
paralyzed by race and gender
stereotypes and baseless slander.
What to make of one we cherish,
Son of God and Son of Mary,
choosing images so hurtful,
adding insult to rejection?
Could he think one race entitled,
others fit to be belittled?
Was it neediness turned hurtful
from the depths of his depletion?
Was he pushed beyond his limits
by importunate demanding
and the bitter strains of conflict?
Did he grasp at ethnic branding,
human in acculturation,
pressured by his incarnation
and his aching need for refuge?
Some excuse his words as testing
power of faith to rise to challenge.
Or was this a test of women
to reveal their wit and courage
and the truth of their potential,
once unshackled from supression?
We still claim from her responses
proof of women’s faith and reason
long denied by patriarchy.
Were the words of their encounter
parable of liberation
“Even dogs eat crumbs from children!”
Deft rebuke in humble answer!
We are wrong to use her image
in a claim we are unworthy!
Jesus gave rare affirmation
to her intellect and power:
“You speak Logos; you bring healing!”
She had healed more than her daughter.
Women generations after
are empowered by her example.
Did the Lord himself find healing
in enacting new creation?
2 thoughts on “The Syrophoenician Woman”
Wonderful interpretation and beautiful poem.
Thanks Maren. This story fascinates me, firstly the apparent prejudice in Jesus’ initial response, and then the transforming statement that the woman speaks logos, when the culture held that women were incapable of rationality. Then there is the affirmation that it is because of what she says that the healing occurs – such an empowering transition. There is also the vulnerability humanity of Jesus seeking refuge where he is not known.