Sermon Introduction –
All parents know not to play favorites. But it happens. James warns against favoritism within the church, too. But Jesus seems to show favoritism toward Israel when he meets a Syrophoenician woman asking him to meet her desperate need. Maybe there is more to the story.
Introduction to our readings –
James tells us to stop showing favoritism in the assembly, treating the rich visitor with more honor than the poor one. Jesus himself seems to show partiality in his first response to the Syrophoenician woman in today’s gospel. Was he testing her faith in saying Gentiles don’t deserve the goods meant for God’s children? Or was he speaking out of his human worldview, but transcended those limits when she took him by surprise with her reply? Either way, the story tells us that God shows no partiality. Everyone who brings her or his need to Jesus is received with equal honor as a child and heir.
Reading: James 2:1-17
Faithful Christians do not show partiality to the rich and powerful of the world, especially at the expense of the poor and weak. Likewise, faith does not pay mere lip-service to God’s will. Instead, a living Christian faith expresses itself in acts of compassion and mercy for those in need.
Reading: Mark 7:24-37
In Mark’s gospel, encounters with women usually signify turning points in Jesus’ ministry. Here, a conversation with a Syrophoenician woman marks the beginning of his mission to the Gentiles.