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Sunday – 20

The gospel mentions a special animal – the dog. I love dogs, and many people surely also do. In the time of Jesus, the dog was certainly just a domesticated animal – not treated in an extra-special way; fed merely from the crumbs that fall from the master’s table. They were expected to know their place inside or outside the house.

People who were despised were likened to dogs, beneath the dignity of human beings. The Canaanite woman, a foreigner, was easy to dispense with because she was like a dog: “Send her away for she keeps following us”, the disciples counseled the Lord.

But look at dogs today. My own dogs are very choosy with their food. They cuddle up with you on the sofa and they want to be carried around. Yes, most of the time, they don’t follow me. I follow and run after them. They have special toys, clothes, hairdressers. We have spoiled our pets; now they think they are our masters.

Today, we don’t compare people we dislike to dogs, or to any pet for that matter. Because the problem is, we treat our dogs or pets better than we treat people. People talk to their dogs but not to their family members. People cry when their pets are sick but are not worried that an abortion occurred in the family. We spend time with our pets but rarely know what’s going on in the hearts of our spouses or our children. Indeed some of us prefer pets to people.

In the time of Jesus, people you don’t like are relegated to the rank of an animal. Today, we push these people to the level below that of animals we care for at home.

The action of Jesus is a clear reminder: people are more important than any other creature on earth. Jesus used the analogy of the dog in his conversation with the Canaanite woman to test her faith. But in the end, he dignified her humility and sincerity by working a miracle on her behalf. The disciples did not like this woman because she was from another group, another camp. She was not one of them.

Jesus is telling us today that no person should be beyond the scope of our hearts. Much violence has already happened because we did not treat “others” right. We have rent apart our society by designating our friends and our enemies. There are wars between Christians and Muslims, liberal and conservatives, labor and management, government and opposition, rich and poor, and various versions of this conflict at home or in the workplace. When people are not with us, they are not as important to us as our dogs, as our pets.

The Lord Jesus calls us today to bridge the gap between ourselves and “others”. Let us discover the dignity of others and reach out to them. Let us not push them further below and treat them worse than we treat our beloved animals. Man’s true best friend is in fact, another person, and not a mere animal.