In last week’s gospel reading (Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23), Jesus criticized religious leaders who were more concerned with ritual purity than compassion for those in need. In this week’s reading (Mark 7:24-37) Jesus demonstrates his point by ministering to a Phoenician woman, a Gentile who was considered ritually unclean by Jews. The story is not without difficulties. Is Jesus reluctant to extend his mission to Gentiles? Why use such a hurtful proverb in response to her plea for help? Whatever the reason, the woman’s faith in Christ’s power and benevolence wins the day. Jesus not only answers her prayer, but extends his ministry beyond the ethnic and racial barriers of his day.