The Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner." So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken."
Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.
O blessed are those who fear the Lord
and walk in his ways.
By the labour of your hands you shall eat.
You will be happy and prosper. (R./)
Your wife like a fruitful vine
in the heart of your house;
your children like shoots of the olive
around your table. (R./)
Indeed thus shall be blessed
the man who fears the Lord.
May the Lord bless you from Zion
all the days of your life. (R./)
Jesus set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile of Syro-phoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." But she answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." The he said to her, "For saying that, you may go, the demon has left your daughter." So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
Women are centre-stage in today's readings. The first woman, Eve, heals the loneliness of the first man, Adam, corresponding to him in a way that no other creature could, and the two are united as equals, in one flesh. While the Jews knew how women bring joy and fulfilment stability into the life of men, they regarded pagan women as responsible for apostasy in Israel. Then in the gospel a pagan woman surprises Jesus with her faith and humble perseverance.
Today more than in the past we ponder on the rightful relationship between the sexes, in family, friendship, in the workplace and in social situations. Our differences as men and women help us to complement each other and challenge each other to grow. Genesis suggests that either the woman or the man in isolation would be deficient and incomplete. The union by which they complement one another enables the image of God in both of them to flourish. In this way marriage sets the pattern for all human friendship and community.
Many of the women in the Scriptures can be models for men as well as for women, just as men provide examples for both women and men. What is scattered and fragmented must be reunited in Jesus, for as Paul says: "among you it is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28-29). In a radical way, belonging to Jesus heals all fragmentation arising from sex and gender.
Adam exclaimed, "This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh." If a spouse needs to leave father and mother and cling to the other, each has a divine mandate to put nothing before one's loyalty to the other. The words of Jesus apply: There is no greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends (John 15:13). In times of crisis, spouses may need to remember his other saying: "Whoever tries to preserve their life will lose it; whoever loses it will keep it" (Luke 17:33). Not only do we not put anyone else before our spouse, but we may be called on to sacrifice ourselves for their sake.
Focus on one thing can cause us to neglect another. Even Jesus seems reluctant to divert attention away from his own chosen people, Israel, to attend to the pagan woman. There is no simple way to soften the harsh reply of Jesus, except perhaps that he would not repeat the mistakes of Solomon who was led astray by foreign women.
The words of apparent rejection are disarmed by the woman's humility, perseverance and love for her child. Not for selfish pleasure or personal gain, but for the sake of her daughter, does the woman turn aside Jesus' harsh words by replying: "but even the dogs under the table eat the family's leavings." This answer overcomes his first objections, and Jesus heals the woman's daughter, a splendid example of gentle perseverance rewarded.