20th Sunday – Year A


2017 Thoughts

  • Karma VS. Grace
  • Are you a vehicle of grace or a hoarder of grace?
  • Canaanite woman = vehicle of grace. Have mercy on me… heal my daughter.
  • Jesus intended the Jews to be the vehicles of grace for the Gentiles.

A Religion of Grace by Bishop Barron (* good homily *)

  • ** A religion of karma (east) VS. a religion of grace (west)
  • A religion of karma = people are rewarded or punished according to merit – satisfies the idea of justice. wretch deserves wretched fate.
  • A religion of grace = all people are sinners & deserve punishment but gives some people what they do not deserve (grace). “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me...” = captures grace religion.
  • Question – how come only some seen to get this gift and others do not? How could this be fair? Some go to heaven and others do not?
  • Bible presents God as a God who chooses.
  • 1st reading Isaiah – “the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord… a house of prayer for all people” = Israel was chosen… singled out… *** uniquely graced… PRECISELY for the world and not for itself – this is what rescues a religion of grace from seeing arbitrary and unfair. Grace = gift. Don’t hord or it undermines the gift. Whole point of receiving divine life = give it away in turn. This is the Gospel of grace. To become vehicles of grace for the whole world.
  • Gospel – marvelous and controversial gospel today. Foreigner comes to Jesus. Jesus seems very exclusive. St. Augustine said Jesus was testing her and awakening her true faith. Here’s the point = Israel given perogative only for sake of the world! Grace is a great feast for Israel & through Israel for the whole world.
  • UsHow do we receive grace? God help me if I asked Him to only send me what I deserve. I have received a grace I don’t not deserve. Thank God I’m not in a religion of karma! How do I receive? I don’t hoard it. I become a vehicle for the world.

Jesus, the Canaanite Woman, and the Dogs by Dr. Brandt Pitre (transcript click here)

  • Matthew’s account of this episode is difficult.
  • Geography is important – Tyre and Sidon – Gentile territories north of the holy land today in Phonecia. A Gentile context.
  • A Gentile woman. A Canaanite woman – worst of all pagan people – history of being enemies of Israel. Book of Wisdom ch12 outlines Canaanites wickedness.
  • Yet this Canaanite woman asks Jesus to have mercy on her – this is no ordinary Canaanite woman – using a royal title too – “Son of David” – honouring him as king, messiah. “Kyrie eleison” comes from this.
  • How does Jesus respond? He ignores her. Very mysterious. Kind of rude. If someone came up to you and gave you a title of honour and begged for mercy… wouldn’t you have done something?
  • Apostles seem uncomfortable.
  • But Jesus doesn’t send her away. He is silent. Only when Apostles ask him to send her away… he responds “sent for lost sheep of house of Israel” = Jesus is sent 1st and foremost for Israelites. 722 BC Northern 10 tribes scattered among nations in North.
  • Jews expected 10 lost tribes gathered together by Messiah.
  • Jesus in the North here = mission to gather scattered sheep of Northern Israelites.
  • There’s an order to salvation history (Romans 1:16) – 1st to chosen people then through them to all nations of the world (after the Resurrection).
  • HOW DOES THE WOMAN RESPOND? She persists. She knelt (proskyneo) before Him and begged. Apostles proskyneo before Jesus in worship, but Gentile woman proskyneo too. Did she worship Jesus? Either way she clearly venerates Him as Lord.
  • WHAT DOES JESUS SAY TO THAT? Jesus still resists. Compares her to a dog. Dogs were unclean ppl, sinners. Jesus is giving parable = children (Israelites), dogs (Gentiles).
  • ** Do you give the food for your children to your dogs? NO. You give the scraps left over. Theres a proper order for things. You don’t take the salvation proper to Israelites first then give to Gentiles…
  • breaking point = crumbs that fall from masters’ table… Jesus affirms her faith.
  • What’s going on in this story??? 
    • 1st reading = Isaiah 56 – about conversion of Gentiles. Gen12 all families of earth blessed through Abraham. All throughout salvation history shows that one day pagans will convert. What is Isaiah talking about? In OT times, Gentiles were excluded from being in the temple. And one day Gentiles will actually minister to the Lord = means to not only worship God but to serve God as priests. Jesus cited this very text when he turned over the table of the moneychangers = house of prayer for all nations.
    • Responsorial psalm 67 = let all the peoples praise you! … your saving power among all nations… “nations” in O.T. =”goyim” = Gentile nations. “goyim” = non-Israelties.
    • BOTH of these anticipate Jesus’ time with this Canaanite woman — she anticipates in advance what will happen after Jesus’ Resurrection with the great commission and St. Paul being the apostle to the Gentiles.
  • ** What do we make of this passage? How Jesus is treating her?
  • Chrysostom says that she was an example for us of patience and persistence in prayer. Jesus is testing her faith in order to give us an example of prayer. We need to persist in prayer! Persist daily. Even in face of apparent silence of God.


Opening the Word by Dr. Mary Healy

  • Imagine if you brought your children’s troubles to Jesus.
  • But haven’t we had the experience of our prayers not being answered?



St. Charles’ Borromeo Bible Study

1st Reading – Isaiah 56:1, 6-7

The name Isaiah means “Yahweh is salvation.” His book is the first of the books of the major prophets, majority being determined by the length of their writings. Although at the time of Christ the entire book was believed to have been written by Isaiah himself, more modern scholarship now sees three authors for this book. The prophecies contained in the first part (chapters 1 through 39) of the book refer to the period in which Isaiah himself lived. In the second part of the book (chapters 40 through 55), the scene changes. Isaiah now sees Babylon, almost two centuries later, at a point when the exiled Jews are in need of consolation. The third part (chapters 56 through 66) looks at the return of the Jews just at the point when they are taking steps to reform their lifestyle in keeping with the covenant even though they are very exposed to foreign and idolatrous influences. By this time the Jews apparently have an altar although they have not yet begun to rebuild the Temple or the city walls. Our reading for today comes from the beginning of this third part. The faithful are reminded of their covenant relationship with God.

“For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (v 7)

In Matthew 21:13 Jesus refers to the Temple as a “house of prayer”.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 67

Let the peoples praise you, O God, let all the peoples praise you!

2nd Reading – Romans 11:13-15, 29-32

Last week we heard the opening verses of Chapter nine where Saint Paul laments for Israel which has failed to recognize the messiah. The remainder of chapter nine and all of chapter ten continue with this lament with numerous references to the Old Testament. He points out that Israel’s plight is not contrary to God’s direction of history, but that their failure is derived from Israel’s own refusal, and that this failure is partial and temporary.

It is to the Jews that Paul has been talking up to this time, and now he turns to the Gentiles. He is the apostle to the Gentiles, but he cannot ever forget his own people. In fact he goes the length of saving that one of his main objects is to move the Jews to envy when they see what Christianity has done for the Gentiles. One of the surest ways to make a man desire Christianity is to make him see in actual life what it can do.

It was Paul’s hope and prayer and ambition that some day the Jews would see what Christianity had done for the Gentiles and be moved to desire it.

“I am an Apostle to the Gentiles” (v 13)

“Paul evangelized the Gentiles of necessity, addressing himself to them and showing that the prophets had predicted this many centuries before. His aim was to make the Jews jealous and thus encourage some of them to come to salvation also.” [Theodoret of Cyr (ca. A.D. 450), Interpretation of the Fourteen Epistles of Paul Romans 11:14]

11:14 Seeking to Save Fellow Jews

Paul eagerly wants to save his fellow Jews. Eternal life is the greatest honour.


“For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all” (v 32)

All, Jews and Gentiles, have as groups been unfaithful to God, who makes use of such infidelity to manifest to all of them His bounty and mercy – to reveal just what kind of God He really is.

“It is usually thought that those who have sinned badly by not accepting the promise of God cannot receive mercy if they do not demonstrate their sorrow because those who have sinned badly cannot be forgiven without tears and wailing. But Paul shows that these things are not required at the start because God’s gift freely pardons sins in baptism.” [The Ambrosiaster (ca. A.D. 366-384), Commentaries on Thirteen Pauline Epistles Romans 11,28]

Gospel – Matthew 15:21-28

Last week we heard of Jesus’ walking on water after the feeding of the five thousand. This week we hear of his encounter with the Canaanite woman prior to his feeding of the four thousand.

The Canaanites were supposed to have been driven out when the Jews invaded and occupied the promised land. She is not just a Gentile, but one who has always been an enemy of the Jews. Not only this, she has spoken to a man in public – she has broken two taboos.

27 She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”

The woman is quick to pick up on the imagery of Jesus’ reply and turn it to her advantage, yet she does it without arrogance. Her bold humility gets the best of Him.

28 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. In all of the Gospel of Matthew, only she is said to have “great” faith. Jesus is generous in His praise and in His healing power.

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