20th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 20th August, 2017

Liturgical Reflection

Matthew 15:21-28

Jesus left Gennesaret and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Then out came a Canaanite woman from that district and started shouting, ‘Sir, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.’ But he answered her not a word. And his disciples went and pleaded with him. ‘Give her what she wants,’ they said, ‘because she is shouting after us.’ He said in reply, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.’ But the woman had come up and was kneeling at his feet. ‘Lord’, she said, ‘help me.’ He replied, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.’ She retorted, ‘Ah, yes, Sir; but even house-dogs can eat up the scraps that fall from their master’s table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.’ And from that moment her daughter was well again.

I’m sure you have had the experience of a child imploring you to do something for them or to allow them to go somewhere or have something. One of my nephews was particularly good at it, not because of his persistence, but because of his ability to rethink his argument. After the initial decline of his request, he would go away and think about a different plan of attack before presenting his request again. If this request was also declined, he would try again utilising a further amended argument – and so the battle continued. Sometimes his presentation would actually arrive at an acceptable level of amendment and you would feel it deserved a positive response, because it was now a reasonable request in its amended form. Interestingly this nephew at the end of this year will have completed his studies to become a medical doctor. I think his patients will benefit from his problem solving skills and persistence in exhausting all avenues before a final verdict is reached.


In our gospel passage for this Sunday we see a woman who is not of the ‘House of Israel’ requesting Jesus to heal her daughter. This woman, who is not deserving of asking something of Jesus, let alone of any Jew, still persists in asking for the healing of her daughter. Through her coming to faith in Jesus and her persistence and developing argument in asking him, she is rewarded. Her argument reminds us that there are those not of ‘our house’ who, in our eyes perhaps don’t deserve God’s salvation, but still can achieve it.

The church of Jesus Christ has been broken and splintered over the centuries. Schisms and protestant movements have caused much division and damage with much condemnation and accusation coming from all sides. Fortunately in recent decades, particularly since the great council of Vatican II, there has been a desire for forgiveness and to focus on what we share in common that unites us, rather than on the differences that divide us. Let us make it our prayer that all parts of the splintered church of Jesus Christ will listen to the voices of each other with respect and openness to the possibility of amendment, so that all who desire the kingdom with sincere heart may achieve it.

Mark Wilson