In today’s Gospel Our Lord takes one of his few trips outside of Palestine into Gentile territory. It seems he is trying keep a low profile, perhaps counting on some anonymity to have some quiet time to teach his disciples. However, as the arrival of the woman shows, news of his miracles has even reached Gentile territory. For us, this is nothing surprising, since we know the Gospel is for everyone, but in that moment it was not time yet. We’re faced with a situation similar to Mary at the wedding feast at Cana: the hour for the Gentiles had not yet come.
The Jews called the Gentiles “dogs”: if seems this woman is asking for a favor and receiving a rejection and a racial slur instead. However, in the original Greek the Lord uses the expression, “little dog,” perhaps to show that the example he was using was not meant to insult her, but to explain that what he had to do right now did not involve her: this party, this “food,” was not meant for her.
In her response we find her faith and her humility. She acknowledges that it’s not for her, but also that she’s not asking to take something away from the “children” that they need: a scrap will not starve them, but it’ll mean everything to her.
Our Lord is so generous with us that sometimes we think we’re entitled to what he gives us. Let’s learn from the Syrophoenician woman today to appreciate even the “scraps.”
Readings: 1 Kings 11:4–13; Psalm 106:3–4, 35–37, 40; Mark 7:24–30. See also 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 18th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year II, and 18th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.