The concept starts out innocently enough.  The patient elementary school teacher says: “Boys and girls, when you color, try not to go outside the lines.”  Later on in life, other teachers come along with a direct order: “People, maintain a margin when you write by hand or type a text on your computer.  It is an expected courtesy.”  We learn on our own that polls feature another type of margin, what the industry jargon calls “a margin of error.”  One more instance of margins appears with the sad fact that in our American society certain of our brothers and sisters are actually “marginal people.” That’s an euphemism for people who, for predetermined reasons, are considered “the outsiders.” The Gospel perspective detests that label. Because Jesus did. It is true that His Jewish contemporaries held that Gentiles, as idolaters, were of a lower class. They had no such word as “marginalized” in their language, but they would recognize the concept.  It would take the example of Jesus Himself, and later on of St. Paul, to break down that inherent hostility. It seems that Our Lord Himself had to learn in His human nature that His mission was not to be boxed in by this kind of thinking. It was to be universal.  Listen to that reaction of His to that unnamed Canaanite woman who is the unsung hero in the story.  After all, she had a lot against her in making a request of this famous Nazarene.  She had reason to be nervous.  First of all, she is a woman alone in man’s world.  But if that were not enough, she is a Gentile.  Do those impediments stop her?  Definitely not!  Being a maternal caregiver with a very sick daughter, she works up the courage to ask this popular Nazarene to cure her charge. Then He retorts with a line that would put off any sensitive type: “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Dogs, you say?  She thought. Undaunted, she pipes up: ”Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the tables of their masters.”  Respectful but insistent. Ultimately very faith-filled.  Our Lord zeroes in on that faith of hers and cures her daughter instantly.  Any onlookers among the audience, both Jew and gentile, had to have been stunned and puzzled.
So where does that woman’s story leave us?  For one thing, it’s an opportunity to examine our list of labels for other people.  Even the best of us have them, deep inside and mostly muzzled.  But they’re there.  Who do we “marginalize?”  Who are “outside the lines” that we draw in our imaginary album of people we know or even don’t know?  Who are the good and the bad in our “book?”  Does this gospel make us uncomfortable?
And where does our faith in Jesus fit into the picture?  Good questions.  But tough questions. It’s always going to be that way for people with a right conscience who claim to follow Christ.  People like you and me.
There is a call here to consider what being grateful for your gift of faith means as  you approach that same Nazarene in the Eucharist today. I’m always a bit nervous as I near Him. But that that long gone Canaanite woman is my hero.  She inspires me to get out of my preconceived notions. Past any trace in me of that nasty margin of prejudice. I can add to that the definite truth of what an unknown wag hit upon when he opined: “Some people’s minds are like concrete: thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.”