Faith — Source of Moral Life
Fr. Miguel Marie Soeherman, MFVA
02/08/2007 — 5th Thursday, Ordinary Time
(7am TV Mass)
To the Greek, “dog” means a shameless and audacious woman. It’s the same way as it is used today in calling female a dog! It’s an insult! To the Jew, it’s a term of contempt! It is especially a contempt for the Gentiles! Back then is an insult! Today is an insult still!
But the way Our Lord used it was not an insult as we understand it! In fact, the word He used was the diminutive form for “dog”. It’s like “little dog” / “little pet dog of the house”. It’s not the wild dogs of the street who bites and barks at everyone who’s on his path! Our Lord called her “little dog.”
Now, St. Mark took the time for us to describe who this woman was. He said, “The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth.” In other word, she’s a pagan! She’s an unbeliever!
Again, Our Lord used the diminutive form when calling her “dog”. It’s like “little dog” is what He called her. In Greek, the diminutive forms are characteristically affectionate. It’s not a scornful expression. And it’s not the typical contempt toward the Gentiles from the Jews that Our Lord had toward her.
I think in Spanish too the diminutive forms are characteristically affectionate! Sometimes people call me “padresito” or “Miguelito” which means “little father” or “little Miguel.” Whenever they call me this way, it was never with a scornful face, but it was always with a smile. It was always with affection they address me this way.
Our Lady too used the diminutive form with affection when calling Her humble servant, Juan Diego! She called him, “Juanito, Juan Dieguito” which means “Little Juan” or “Little Juan Diego.”
This is how Our Lord addressed this woman — with affection... and not with scorn and contempt! He took the sting out of the word that’s typically there!
What I love about this woman is her humble faith-filled response! She said to Him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” She just trusted in the Lord that He would take care of her request. And because of her response which was filled with trust and faith in Him, the demon in her daughter left her.
Remember now, she’s a Greek! She’s one of the Gentiles! This passage from Mark’s Gospel and the one from Matthew’s Gospel — both point out that she is a pagan. This means that her faith in Jesus is remarkable! Her faith is more remarkable than the others who should be believing in Him. She has faith that put the Jews in her time to shame. She believes in the Lord.
The Letter to the Hebrews defines faith as the substance of things hoped for; faith is the evidence of things that are not seen. Faith overcomes fear. Faith overcomes doubt. Faith does not contradict reason. Faith and reason walked together. Faith helped reason to go beyond its limitation.
Blaise Pascal (The Heart of Virtue, 67) once said, “Faith declares what the senses do not see, but not the contrary of what they see. It is above them, not contrary to them.”
Mother’s description of faith is one foot on the ground, one foot on the air, and having a queasy feeling in your stomach.
Faith enabled Our Blessed Mother to receive the Word of God. And not only to receive but to be fruitful with the blessed fruit of Her womb, Jesus! She trusted and believed that the Lord’s word to Her would be fulfilled.
My spiritual director recently said to me that now a day virtue is no longer practiced! It’s not something that people exercise at all times or even regularly. This is true especially when things are not going according to our plan. This is true especially when we have to make a difficult decision or certain crisis. We tend to ignore our faith. We pretend as if we are pagans. We pretend as if we don’t know God! We tend to turn the power of our faith off, so that we do our own things. We make a choice that is truly offensive to God.
The Catechism teaches that faith is the source of our moral life. It states (#2087):
Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals His love to us. St. Paul speaks of the ‘obedience of faith’ as our first obligation. He shows that ‘ignorance of God’ is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations. Our duty toward God is to believe in Him and to bear witness to Him.
Sometimes in our life we have to make a difficult decision. This is when our faith need to be exercised! This is when it ought to be exercised! This is when our faith must be exercised!
Let me conclude with a story that shows faith being exercised during various trial times of a young girl’s life.
Theresa who was 16 years old met her boyfriend. And it turned out that her boyfriend became her first and only lover. Within two years, they were engaged. And they planned to be married within a year after that. It was during their engagement that something they had not planned happened. She became pregnant.
In her 8th week, which would be considered critical time in the baby’s development, she contracted German measles. Her doctor told her about a child he had delivered a year before. That mother had also been exposed to German measles. The baby was born deaf, retarded, and with his intestines outside his body! So what did the doctor do? He advised Theresa to abort the baby. He warned her that her baby would be “a vegetable or worse.” Thanks be to God, like the woman in the Gospel, she placed her faith in God! She put her faith in Him and bear the child. She was expecting the worse and not wanting to burden her fiancé, she broke off their engagement!
Moments after she gave birth, the delivering doctor asked her in a scolding manner: “Weren’t you advised to get an abortion? Well, you should have done it.” Her son was not breathing. And she barely managed to glimpse his curly dark hair before he was taken away. He had a score of 4 (out of a possible 10) in the measure of a newborn’s vital signs. Her son did not have visible signs of a handicap, but he was tested positive for measles. Because of that, he was placed in isolation.
She decided to have her child adopted. But a few days later, she was allowed to see her baby from behind a glass wall. That’s when she had her maternal instinct. She vowed, “I have to take care of this baby.” Eventually, she and the child’s father decided to marry after all. And the newlywed couple soon reclaimed their child from his foster mother. When she picked up her son, the foster mother handed her a note: “Baby has shaking of arms and legs. Do not be alarmed. Just hold him close and talk to him.”
Because of his measles, she kept her son in isolation until he was 12 months old. Her doctor had told her that even if her baby had seemed normal at birth, “then by age five, something devastating would show up.” So, she kept waiting for the worst until he was five.
Yet, the good news is that, her son developed normally. And her faith in God remained firm. Long after the crisis period passed, her son continued to remain normal. In fact, he was above normal. When his IQ was tested, it was in the 150 range. And the son turned out to be a very spiritual person. Eventually, he had entered the seminary to pursue the priesthood vocation (cf. The Heart of Virtue, 62-4).
So be grateful for the gift of faith that we’ve been given by God! This gift guides us in the narrow road; though narrow, but the road leads to everlasting life! Don’t take your faith for granted! Don’t let your faith sit in the closet of your heart collecting dust! But use this gift! Live your faith especially when you have to make a difficult decision in life! Use your faith to guide your decision! The Lord does not abandon us! He is here to help us! He loves us too much to abandon us! Believe in Him! Believe in His love for you!