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 Syrophoenician 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.’ Then 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.
The woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin.
Today, probably more than at any other time in human history, we find ourselves having to ‘prove our identity’. That notion of identity seems to be the foundation upon which almost every transaction in our daily lives is based. We need to prove our names, our addresses, our nationality on a regular basis. Even when we are in need of medical attention, we might be asked to prove who we are before treatment can be offered. Furthermore, our answers to these questions are no longer deemed to be adequate. We are left feeling that our personal knowledge of such matters cannot be trusted, we have to produce all of those documents to ‘prove’ that we are telling the truth, and not up to no good! Of course, there are those who steal the identities of others for nefarious reasons, but do I really need to prove the same things over and over again, every time I speak to the same person in the same organisation?
In today’s reading we are given information about a woman’s identity. We are not given her name, that which makes her an individual, but we are told her religion and her nationality. She is a gentile; that means that she is not Jewish. We are told that she is Syrophoenician; that means she is a foreigner and, therefore, probably not to be trusted! We are also told, as we read between the lines, that she has faith in Jesus. Of course, there is another detail in today’s reading that is often overlooked … Jesus went away to the region of Tyre, a non-Jewish region. When we consider today’s reading in that context we might find it easier to grasp that Jesus’ mission is to all people, and not just a chosen few. It should also help us to grasp that our mission is also to all people, and not just the chosen few we get on with!
It is not for us to judge others. It is not for us to consider whether their identities make them worthy of God’s love. It is not for us to turn our backs on those who wish to draw near to Christ.
Let us pray for openness of hand, heart and mind as we journey through our daily lives. Let us pray that through our actions, our thoughts and our words others might know themselves to be in the loving presence of Christ. Let us pray we might recognize our own unworthiness as we extend the hand of love and service to all … even the ones we struggle to like!