RCL Year B, Proper 18 (Alternate Readings)
Isaiah 35:4-7a, Psalm 146, James 2:1-10 and 14-17, Saint Mark 7:24-37

We normally associate Jesus as “a light to enlighten the Gentiles”[1] with the Gospel of Saint Luke and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, authored by the same person, Saint Luke the Evangelist.

But in the Gospel today, in Saint Mark’s Gospel, we see Jesus curing the daughter of a Syrophoenician woman. Because of all the social boundaries the woman crosses and because of the sharpness and intelligence of her reply to Jesus, traditionally she is taken to be a substantial and wealthy person. She advances upon Jesus, makes a firm impression upon Jesus, and he cures her daughter. Jesus has traveled away from Galilee and Judea into Gentile and foreign territory, a place where the Jews had enemies.

I am not surprised by this, nor should you be, either. Saint Mark presents Jesus as the Son of God, as the centurion declares at the foot of the cross. As the Son of God, Jesus has something to offer to everyone, and everyone who recognizes that truth is blessed by that recognition.

The puzzle, of course, is why more people and more people in our time and in our place, don’t recognize him to be the Son of God.

But the Syrophoenician woman recognizes him. The Gentile woman from far away recognizes him. For generations following generations, she stands for the outsider who becomes an insider, who receives the welcome, the forgiveness, the mercy, and the grace that the insiders may think belong to them, the inheritance that the insiders have been counting as their birthright for far too long. For when insiders extend themselves and welcome outsiders, the glory of God swells, and their relationship with God deepens. The image from Isaiah is difficult to surpass. When insiders welcome outsiders, “the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water.”[2]

[1] Saint Luke 2:32.

[2] Isaiah 35:7.