National Public Radio recently had a story on DNA testing and how some people’s self-identity is shaken by the results (e.g. those who think they are 100% something and find out that they are a mix of many, many groups; or those who have a strong prejudice against a certain group and find out that group has a significant presence in their DNA). We are tribal and we build up an identity (Italian American, white, left-handed, Cheesehead, city-boy, etc., etc.) with a tendency to be prejudiced against those who are different.
We see Jesus doing the same thing. He was Jewish and a male and when approached by a pagan and a woman, His cultural prejudices came out: He called the woman a dog. The key lesson here is that Jesus was open to change and growth: He saw the extreme love of the woman for her child and her willingness to accept insults to help her daughter and was converted: He grew past His cultural prejudices towards an understanding that all people are God’s children.
We all have cultural prejudices: it is how our self-identity, so important as we move through life, is formed. But like Jesus, we need to grow in our acceptance of all people as God’s children: different but each loved by God as a special reflection of his love. This story tells it all: One day, a curious person in heaven asked St. Peter “How many Hindus are in heaven?” Peter replied: “No Hindus”. Then he asked: “How many Muslims?” “Not even one,” replied Peter. The man was surprised. He said: “Oh, then, there are only Christians in heaven?” “No, there are no Christians in heaven either,” replied Peter. “How many Catholics?” “No, Catholics either.” “Then who is here?” Peter replied, “ There are only God’s children!” May we grow in our ability to accept each person as a child of God.
-- Paul James Portland, SDS