We all know what it’s like to be an outsider. The dictionary defines ‘outsider’ as someone who is “excluded from or does not belong to” a particular group. Outsiders don’t have the same advantages that insiders do. We’ve just heard how an ‘outsider’ is desperate to gain access to the privileges of the ultimate inside group. The Gentile woman, frantic for her daughter to be healed, falls on her knees before Jesus and begs him to help her. She asks him to treat her the same way he treats the Israelites.
Our Lord’s response may sound cruel, but let’s look at why he might have said that children (Israelites) should be fed before the dogs (Gentiles). Our Lord’s primary mission was to Israel. He was the Messiah that the Jews were hoping for, and they were his own chosen people, they were his first priority.
But Our Lord didn’t refuse to heal this woman’s daughter. Instead, he showed that people on the ‘outside’ can receive divine mercy too. The gospels offer only two accounts of Jesus healing from a distance, and in both cases, it’s a Gentile who is healed: a centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13) and this Syrophoenician woman’s daughter. Both of these people were ‘outsiders’, but Our Lord offered them special treatment. Not only did he reveal his power in a remarkable way, but he also did it quickly, without making them wait for him to make the journey to their homes. Our Lord ended their suffering right away, and that shows how much he loved them.
We may know people who are considered ‘outsiders’; people who feel isolated or excluded, for whatever reason. Our Lord teaches us to reach out to them. And we can do that easier now than at any time in human history. We can go and visit them, or we can reach across the distance, and send them an email. Our contact with them just might make a difference.