Reflection for Thursday, February 9, 2017: 5th Week in Ordinary Time.

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Hauser, Dick, S.J.
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Today's Gospel presents a most disconcerting saying from Jesus. Falling at Jesus' feet, a non-Jewish woman begs him to drive a demon from her daughter.  Jesus responds, "Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of children and throw it to the dogs."  The woman replies to this insult, "Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children's scraps."|How can we possibly explain this seemingly heartless response from Jesus?|Frankly, I don't know. But is it possible that Jesus unreflectively responded as he had been conditioned to respond by his traditional Jewish upbringing? Jewish self-identity is strong. God chose the Jews from all the peoples of the world to be God's own chosen people.  Jesus believed he was sent by God to the Jews and for the Jews!  Does Jesus' Jewish upbringing and education prompt his curt response?|This opinion may not be too far-fetched. We Christians steadfastly assert that Jesus is indeed fully human. As such would he not be receptive and sensitive to his cultural conditioning? Does his initial spontaneous, unreflective response to the non-Jewish woman simply echo his life-long, small town, rural Galilee conditioning?|I don't know. But note that Luke does tell us that "Jesus advanced in wisdom, age and grace before God and man"(Lk 2:52).|Now observe what happens next. Jesus says to the woman, "For saying this you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter."  The woman returns home and finds her daughter's demon gone!|Jesus' direct personal encounter with the non-Jewish woman transforms him and affects his world view.  Jesus no longer sees a Jew or a non-Jew.  Jesus sees a human being,  a child of God in need, a neighbor!  And Jesus responds as  neighbor!|This interpretation has significance today for our current world. We seem to be labeling groups of people in ways that undermines their basic identity as fellow human beings and children of God.  The labels vary but the labels surely include nationality status (refugee, immigrant – legal and illegal) and religious affiliation ( Jewish, Christian, Muslim).|Is today's Gospel inviting us to drop our prior conditioning and our labels and to allow the Spirit to unite us with the disadvantaged and displaced persons of our world as fellow human beings, as children of God,  as neighbors?|Are we, like the Good Samaritan, being invited to respond not to labels but to persons  -- to our neighbor?
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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