Helping the outsider … increases peace and prosperity for everyone
At first glance, this Gospel can be taken as an extension of God’s love, for the Jews, to the non-Jewish people. We are being taught to look outside of our “tribe” and see others as part of God’s family and, therefore, part of our family.
As we know in Kenya, tribalism causes a lot of in-fighting and political divisions: which only causes suffering for the whole country, including those in power. While, in other countries where all groups are treated with respect, their countries prosper.
By showing compassion to the woman, Jesus models how we should respond to outsiders in need: the initial rejection, reflects what people usually do to strangers. The woman’s response is courageous and teaches us to argue back against prejudice against us.
When Jesus likened the woman to a dog, it often causes confusion to people. Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t include any reference as to whether Jesus was smiling and joking with the woman. The woman also knew that Jews do not associate with her kind.
But love for her daughter pushed her to fight on. Finally, Jesus allows his compassion to heal the woman’s daughter.
Now, the woman was fighting for her personal family; in a sense, fighting for herself. However, the First Reading challenges us to fight for justice for others.
Our society (and world) is layered with people at different levels of status. Like India, we have a caste system (economic). The readings today challenge us to be concerned for those outside our group: especially those who cannot solve their problems by themselves.
If we think about it carefully, it’s logical to see that a community that treats everyone justly will be safer and more prosperous for me personally. So, God is not asking us to help others for nothing: every time we help others, we help ourselves, both personally and generally.
We benefit personally because our mental health is improved: we feel good, and our unconscious mind confirm that “I am worthwhile and valuable to others.”
We benefit generally because our communities are safer and happier: less tax dollars required for policing, social services, prisons, etc.
The Second Reading reveals how St Paul went out to the “pagans”, focusing on the outsiders, while most disciples concentrated on the Jewish people.
As we look back at world development, over the last 2000 years, our improving economic and social development is based on inclusion and care for others. It’s been slow, at times, but when we practice justice, then prosperity and peace increase.
However, at times we might be guilty of imitating the disciples who wanted Jesus to help the woman so they could get peace and quiet again. They didn’t care about the woman: perhaps because she was not Jewish.
Do we ignore people in our society in need of justice? Can we open our eyes to see how we hurt ourselves, when we remain silent? Maybe our children and grandchildren will do the suffering?
The issue of abortion is very sensitive, and I feel compassion for anyone who has done it. However, to help prevent future suffering for others, and help stop our society from dying out, can we speak up for life?
A new law is proposed in West Australia allowing abortion up to birth, and if the baby is born it will be OK to let it die on the table. When we grow older and wonder why there is a shortage of nurses, doctors, and carers; perhaps we will wish we had spoken up for life.
Like the woman in the Gospel we may have to argue our case with others, but in the process we will deepen our sense of humanity and purpose in life. May God give each of us the wisdom to know how best to respond to issues around us, and courage to do something.
And, most of all, may God give us a heart that cares, and a mind that will look for knowledge to make good responses to the questions challenging our society.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI