“It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen

Today’s Gospel reading is one of those challenging ones. When people talk about our Lord and Saviour these days, they describe him as Mr Nice. An example of winsomeness, kindness, just all-round niceness. People often describe Jesus as a man who would never say a harsh word to anyone; a person who would love us as we are and affirm our lifestyles and all our sinful ways.

This reading reminds us that is not the case. Jesus does love us, of course, but he loves us despite our sinful ways. He wants better for us. He wants us to be better. Jesus Christ wants us to live holy lives like him, in him and with him. And if we are not meeting those conditions he is always willing and able to rebuke us. Most famously, he turned over the tables of the money changers in the Temple, when they were defiling God’s house. He rebuked many a man who challenged him. Christ’s wrath should not be underestimated. After all, he may be truly man, but he is also truly God, and God’s wrath is just.

So when Jesus speaks to the foreign lady in the story with such harshness, it sometimes catches us off guard. He compares her to an animal, he calls her a foreign dog. Jesus says he was send for the lost sheep of the house of Israel – the Jews – God’s chosen people. He isn’t at this point ready to minister to the Gentiles – the rest of us. But after rebuking her, the woman speaks with such faith that Christ takes pity on her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish” he grants the woman her prayer as she worships him.

The woman left her pagan background, her idols, and worshipped the one true God. And in response, he granted her his grace. Christ’s compassionate heart meant he welcomed the outsider. He broke down the barriers between Jews and Gentiles.

This is a shocking story, because the table was set for the chosen people, but the meal was not meant for them alone. Everyone is invited to the Lord’s table. We are all fallen, none of us are worthy, but God grants us his grace anyway.

He was always going to minister to the Gentiles, but his revelation worked first through the Israelites, to demonstrate his signs/miracles, and his resurrection was intended to unite us all.

The women, in essence, was saying you came to the Jews and they did not listen to what you had to say, they had ears but cannot hear. Here I am with faith, I believe in you. Grant your grace to us Gentiles, too. Her faith and her humility gained her God’s favour. That is a moral to remember.

This Gospel story is a reminder of why the Jews were God’s chosen. They were set apart not for themselves, but for all men. They were set aside for us, too, to show us an example of how to live with God. How to follow his laws, and how to worship him. Being fallen people, they of course didn’t always meet these expectations. So God came to earth as man incarnate, as the person Jesus Christ, to show us himself.

God’s grace is a gift. It is a gift he offers us, but one we cannot store, a gift we cannot hoard to ourselves. If we try to do so, we undermine the very nature of the gift. He grants us his grace so that we in turn may give it away. Love thy neighbour as thyself. God’s love is self-giving. Love, in a Christian context, is willing the good of the other. That is how God loves us, and that is how we are called to love each other. A sacrificial love, a graceful love, giving of ourselves, for the good of our neighbour.

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