5th Week, Thursday, Feb 13: Reflection & Liturgy

1 Kings 11:4-13 / Mark 7:24-30
 Solomon’s wives influence him: They turned his heart from God.

Theodore White makes a surprising observation in his book The Mountain Road. He says that if you put a chunk of pure gold next to a chunk of pure silver, something unusual and unexpected will happen. Invisible flecks of silver will cross over and embed themselves in the gold. And specks of the gold will cross over and embed themselves in the silver. What happens to metal happens to people also. When people are put in close contact, parts of their character and values cross over and embed themselves in the other. This crossover can be for good or for evil.

In the case of Solomon’s wives, it was for evil. They turned his heart against God.
Who are those closest to us? What kind of an influence are they having on us? “I am part of all I have met.” Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Ulysses”
There are many things etched in our memory, among which are the experiences of our childhood and growing up years. Yes, we carry all these memories of the experiences into our adulthood and they shape our lives as we grow. Besides the memories of our schooldays, there are also memories of family activities as well as religious experiences. For the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman who begged Jesus to cast the devil out of her, that would be one memory that will stay with her for the rest of her life and would have shaped her life.

What became of the daughter, we do not know, but certainly her mother will keep recalling how she begged Jesus for help and her wish was granted.

But for king Solomon, as he grew old, he somehow forgot how his father David had been faithful to the Lord. The Lord even appeared to him twice to warn him not to follow other gods, but he did not obey. It was such a tragedy for someone who had seen how God made his father great, and he himself was made great by the Lord, and yet lost it all because of unfaithfulness and disobedience.

As we recall and remember the wonders and the blessings that the Lord has bestowed upon us, let us also pledge our faithfulness and obedience to Him. May we tell of the Lord's goodness to the next generation and urge them to remain faithful and to obey God always.
Thursday of 5th Week: Liturgy

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.   

Opening Prayer 
Father of all,  long ago you chose the people of Israel  to make your name known to all nations.  Your Son Jesus Christ, made it clear  that forgiveness and life are the share  of all who believe in him.  Make your Church truly a place of encounter  for all those who grope for you,  that all obstacles and barriers may be removed  and that the riches of all nations and cultures  may reveal the thousand faces of the love you show us  in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

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 disfavor 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 food for thought.   

Points to Ponder 
Compromising faith 
Foreign influences on Solomon 
The Gospel woman: Faith over all else   

– That there may be room in the universal Church for the cultural riches of various peoples and for their manifesting the same faith in a variety of languages and forms of expression, we pray: 
– That we may open our homes and hearts to those who differ in many ways from us, that we may do all we can to integrate them into the human and Christian community, we pray: 
– That all of us may be concerned about those who are not here because they are estranged from the Church, we pray:   

Prayer over the Gifts 
God, our Father, you set the table of your Son  for all who are willing to come:  for saints and for sinners, for the poor and the rich.  May we learn from your Son, Jesus Christ, to give to all those who ask for food or love not meager crumbs or leftovers,  but the food of ourselves,  as Jesus does here for us,  he who is your Son and our Lord for ever.   

Prayer after Communion 
God our Father,  in this Eucharist we have all been one  in Jesus Christ, your Son.  He died and rose to life for all;  his likeness is reflected  in the face of every human being.  May it become visible in all.  Let his face not be marred or divided  by our prejudices and fears;  do not allow your love to be less than universal,  but unite us all in him  who is our common way to you and to one another,  Jesus Christ, our Lord.   

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.