Even the Dogs Eat the Scraps
Admittedly, this is one of the harder sayings of Jesus if we allow ourselves to think that way. What do you mean if we allow ourselves to think this way? Just that. When we read a book, a newspaper, or something from the Bible, it is always in the context of how we perceive what the message is. We project ourselves and our understanding on what we read based on our personal experiences and how we perceive ourselves. For example, stop and ask yourself. Have I ever called someone a name? Have I ever compared someone to an animal? We have been taught since our youth not to call people names and now we hear Jesus saying something we are not supposed to do. What’s the deal?
First, we should remind ourselves that Jesus is God and that God loves us. Second, this gospel takes place in the early first century. The culture is much different than today. Third, when Jesus has His disciples around Him, He says and does things to teach and instruct them. I see this as a particularly important teaching moment. And the readings for the today I think support that claim. In the first reading from Isaiah, we hear that foreigners who join themselves to God become God’s servants. God chose Israel for His chosen people, but God accepts all people, even foreigners. In the second reading Paul is speaking to the Gentiles, again the foreigners. And in the Psalm, we say let all the nations praise God. The readings are all indicating that God is for all.
Now let us look at the Gospel. First, the location of this story is in Tyre and Sidon. These communities are not in Israel. They are in Gentile territory. Second, this is the only miracle Jesus does outside of Israel. Third, in their culture, women had little value, so a Gentile woman would be considered even less. Jesus is using language that I think His disciples would have used, perhaps He had heard them using the same words. The disciples wanted Jesus to send the woman away. If you remember previous miracles, the disciples are usually trying to send people away. Jesus wants them to learn that if you are going to be a servant to God, then you must be a servant to others, to everyone. Jesus points out that He brings food to the children of Israel. The woman points out that the children of Israel are well fed because there are scraps falling from the table. Remember the story of the feeding of five thousand and there are twelve baskets full of scraps.
Jesus now says, great is your faith. And so, it is. The disciples learn today that Jesus came for all people. And that true faith is believing in Jesus. And as Jesus’ disciples we are all to be servants.
May the Lord bless you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.