August 16, 2020 (readings)
- Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
- Br. Riley Connors
Then Jesus went from that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.
Opening Prayer: Lord, here I am. Show me your face; show me your love for me. I know that without you I am nothing, and yet you want to give me everything. I want to love you—teach me how. Lord, increase my faith to see the world the way you see it.
1. That’s Not the Jesus I Know: What on Earth was Jesus up to in this Gospel? Right before coming to Tyre and Sidon, in Matthew 14:36, the people of Gennesaret had only to touch his cloak and they were healed. Right after he returned to Galilee, the Gospel tells us that he was healing all who came to him. We are so used to hearing how Jesus was always willing to heal, cure, and liberate that the Jesus in this Gospel is almost unrecognizable. First, he ignored the woman, saying he was sent only to Israel, then he outright rejected her and even seemed to insult her. Yet, perhaps the Jesus in this Gospel is not so far from our own experience—after all, are all of our prayers answered as soon as we ask, in the way we ask? Doesn’t it rather feel sometimes like God answers our prayers for help not with the solution we want, but with more trials? God knows much better than we do what we need—perhaps this woman needed a little humility, maybe she had a prejudice against Jews that was impeding her faith, or maybe Jesus just wanted to bring her to even greater heights of faith by his actions. Do I see God’s hand in everything? Do I persevere in prayer even when it seems like nothing is happening?
2. Great Is Your Faith: As bewildering as Jesus’s response to this woman was at first, by the end of their interaction he elicited from her a profession of faith so powerful that it seemed to change Jesus’s mind: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters...” “...O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” May we imitate her strong faith, no matter what our circumstances are, trusting that Jesus always knows best.
3. Standing Alone?: Nowadays, faith and trust in God are not particularly fashionable. Many see confidence in God as weak, naive—a refusal to deal with life’s problems. In reality, faith, which is a gift from God, can strengthen believers to withstand any hardship, even martyrdom, as so many saints have shown us. Perhaps this Canaanite woman’s story of faith was preserved in the Gospel to remind us of this.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, thank you for being with me this short time of prayer. Increase my faith. I know you are listening, that you love me and that you want the best for me.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will thank you for the little trials you send my way.
For Further Reflection: Psalm 23 is one of the most well-known psalms for good reason: It is one of the greatest prayers of trust ever written:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
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