Recently I heard someone say that Jesus came to create “the together.” This resonates with me. We can find all kinds of examples in scripture where Jesus breaks down barriers and boundaries, bringing people together. He even confronts some of the cultural stereotypes that he and the disciples carried in themselves when he heals the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30); at first, he dismisses the woman (essentially calling her and her daughter dogs), but when this privileged class Gentile woman tells him “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs,” she has his attention.
At times we have the power to heal, often through simple gestures of love and acceptance. Sometimes we have the power or influence to help correct an injustice or to smooth the way for someone who may be dealing with the added problem of prejudice. Like speaking up when we know a person of a particular race or ethnicity is next in line but the salesperson or clerk automatically moves to serve the person of privileged status first. Sometimes I act and sometimes I just observe.
What Jesus knows is that we are all of a piece. We are all part of God’s magnificent creation. When one among us suffers injustice, we all suffer. The wound is collective, no matter how remote or removed it might seem.
In his death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus affirms that in God’s perfect economy no one is lost, all are meant to be salvaged and all are made whole. If we wonder where our salvation is to be found, it is in the salvation of “the other.” If we want to find God’s gracious mercy, forgiveness and all-embracing love, we will find it in loving, forgiving and embracing “the other.”
God calls us to reconciliation with all of our brothers and sisters. Or, as my dear professor Gordon Lathrop once remarked: “Whenever you draw a line in the sand to separate yourself from others, you will always find Jesus on the other side.” This, I think has something to do with what the fully human Jesus was working out through his encounter with the Syrophoenician woman. The grace-filled gift of willingness to work through such an uncomfortable process is, I think, fully divine.