Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (20th August)

Matthew 15.21-28

Since he has been elected, Pope Francis has encouraged us to go out to the margins of society, to hear the cry of God’s people and bring them the light of the Gospel. ‘Edgy’ places can be scary and can make us vulnerable but they can crack open our protective shells, make us more porous, more ready to listen and to act.

Over recent months and years our T.V. screens have shown us the plight of so many immigrants, with pain and desperation on their faces, on the border countries of our world, hoping to cross into a new life.

In next Sunday’s Gospel we hear the woman from the region of Tyre and Sidon crying out to a foreigner, whose people look down on her people, pleading on behalf of her daughter. Jesus too is in a border place; he has withdrawn to the edges, away from the places of petty rules and regulations which seem to have lost their spirit. Into this space steps the Canaanite woman crying out on behalf of her tormented daughter “Lord, Son of David have pity on me. “

Jesus is silent. He has been preaching to the “Lost sheep of Israel” finding many of them lacking in faith and now this foreigner stands before him. Has she disturbed him, challenged him? He seems abrupt when he speaks as a Jew to a Gentile, referring to her race as ‘dogs’.
Surely there were enough of his own people to be converted. But now this woman, who seems to be of high social status, humbly kneels before him and cries out simply: ”Help me.” Jesus’ reply about it not being right to take bread from his own people and throw it to puppy dogs (foreigners) seems harsh, yet he cannot have intended to humiliate her; surely rather, he was insisting that neither her people nor anybody else had a right to demand anything of God. His reply could have crushed her to the earth, but her humility, her wit, her persistence, her great love for her daughter but above all her strong faith moved Jesus to respond and cross a new border on his own mission.

Do you remember a time when you crossed a border and found new life?

Sr. Blanaid Gallagher OP

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