Growing up in a family of six, mealtimes were always a bit of a scrum. First to finish got first dibs on the leftovers, so the three teenagers tended to eat quickly! It was rare for there to be anything left, but if that ever happened, what found its way into the fridge was sure to be gone by the morning.
Looking further back into my childhood, my dad – following the example of my nan – was a great one for ‘bubble and squeak’ i.e. frying up leftover veg the following day into a sort of patty. We all loved it: I suspect we often looked forward to bubble and squeak more than the original meal! These were leftovers which were every bit as good as the first offering.
Today’s passage is perhaps the theological equivalent of ‘bubble and squeak’. Jesus meets a gentile (non-Jewish) woman, who comes to him seeking healing for her daughter. Jesus replies that God’s blessings are meant primarily for the Jews: and I like to think that, here, he says what he says with a wry smile on his face. ‘Dogs’ was a derogatory term for non-Jews: it’s hard to imagine Jesus using this in a prejudicial way – more likely he was testing her to see what she said.
And her reply was brilliant: ‘even the dogs get the crumbs from under the table.’ Jesus loves both her faith and her quick wit: ‘For such a reply you may go; the demon has left your daughter.’
There are several examples in the gospels where Jesus blesses or heals people who were not Jews – demonstrating not just that the gospel is for everyone, but, even more wonderfully, that non-Jews can receive the same blessings as Jews, the historic chosen people of God. Or, to put it another way, the ‘bubble and squeak’ enjoyed by the Syro-Phoenician woman was now every bit as good as the original meal!
This is good news for all of us reading this reflection today. Thanks to Christ, we share in the same inheritance – good news for the whole world. Indeed, with the pouring out of God’s Spirit on all people, what we get is not just ‘crumbs’, but the fullness of God’s blessing – the indwelling presence of God and what St Paul calls ‘every spiritual blessing in Christ.’
And may that glorious truth raise our faith to approach Jesus confidently: to seek him for all that we need today, and to trust that he gives us, not just crumbs, but the fullness of his blessings.