Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Engaging Faith | Tue, Aug 12, 2008

By John Bucki, SJ
Source: Center of Concern

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time [a]

 August 17, 2008


     Isaiah 56:1, 6-7

     Romans 11:13-15, 29-32

     Matthew 15:21-28


August 15: Feast of the Assumption of Mary

August 23: International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition


This is the mystery of our Church, that all men and women are brothers and sisters, all one in Christ, all bear the image of the Eternal God.

-US Catholic Bishops

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of freedom and a force for liberation. In recent years, this essential truth has become the object of reflection for theologians, with a new kind of attention which is itself full of promise.

Instruction on Certain Aspects of the "Theology of Liberation"

Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

"Women are equally created in the image and likeness of God, equally redeemed by Christ, equally sanctified by the Holy Spirit; women are equally involved in the ongoing tragedy of sin and the mystery of grace, equally called to mission in this world, equally destined for life with God in glory."

Elizabeth Johnson CSJ She Who Is, 8

The one gift of salvation coming from God through Jesus-Sophia in the Spirit upends power relationships, transforming all teachers, fathers, masters, great ones into servants of the little ones.

Elizabeth Johnson CSJ She Who Is, 82

Every perspective on economic life that is human, moral, and Christian must be shaped by three questions: What does the economy do for people? What does it do to people? And how do people participate in it? The economy is a human reality: men and women working together to develop and care for the whole of God's creation. All this work must service the material and spiritual wellbeing of people.

US Bishops, Economic Justice for All, #1

Thoughts for your consideration

In today's gospel, the Canaanite woman dares to approach Jesus.  She is a woman and a gentile. She has a sick daughter. By the custom and practice of the time, she should not dare to approach Jesus.  Culturally, she has no right to expect to share in the ministry of Jesus.  She should "remain invisible and say nothing."

On one level, the Canaanite woman is like many people in our world today. She is like all the women who are denied an equal place at the table. She represents those who are struggling to care for others (children, family, parents, etc) and do not have the means to do so as they would like.  She is like all parents who cannot get good health care for their children. She represents those who are left out because of their national or ethnic background.  She reminds us of those of us who are intimidated by religious, political, or economic authority.

On another level, the Canaanite woman reminds us of those who take the courage to speak up despite all the cultural messages to keep quiet and just accept their suffering. She models a woman who is willing to speak up to authority. She represents those who keep on speaking out for justice and basic human rights.  She represents those who do not give up.

Jesus is touched by this amazing encounter.  He praises her faith. Her daughter is cured. The experience of Jesus seems to point to the possibility of conversion and the possibility of help coming to those who are in need.

The Gospel inspires people to have the freedom and courage to speak up and take action for their rights. The Gospel is about liberation and transformation.  The woman speaks up. Her daughter is healed.  Both she and Jesus are changed.  The prophecy of Isaiah comes true. On God's mountain there is a gathering of folks from all the many nations who enjoy justice and peace.

Questions for Reflection in your Faith Sharing Group

Who do you know who is as persistent at the Canaanite woman? 

How does such persistence affect you? Are you in any way changed?

Can you be so persistent in speaking up for your rights or the rights of those in need?

Actions - Links

On December 18, 1979, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  For info and to advocate on this treaty go to

The Justice for Immigrants Campaign provides tools and information for organizing, education, and advocacy efforts to assist immigrants.  Catholic teachings underpin this campaign.  Proposals are offered from the Catholic Bishops to achieve reforms in our nation's immigration laws and policies that better reflect our values as a nation of immigrants.  Go to:

"The so-called "illegals" are so not because they wish to defy the law; but, because the law does not provide them with any channels to regularize their status in our country - which needs their labor: they are not breaking the law, the law is breaking them."

Most Reverend Thomas Wenski, Bishop of Orlando

"Crazy Facts"

185 countries have ratified the Treaty for the Rights of Women. 

The United States has still not ratified this treaty.

Prayers of Intercession

Response:  Help us and heal us, O God.

For those who are sick, we pray....

For immigrants to our nation, we pray....

For those whose homes have been foreclosed, we pray...

For the unemployed, we pray....

For women who are denied equal rights, we pray....

For those who are afraid to speak up for what is right, we pray....

Prayer - Meditation

The prayer below is edited from the website of St. Mary's College Ipswich.

Living God, we pray for all people:

  • For those women shut off from a full life by tradition and practice.
  • For those people who are oppressed and exploited.
  • For those denied their freedom and dignity by systems and authorities.
  • For those forced to leave their homelands because of their ideologies.
  • For those seeking answers and meaning to their lives within their own cultures and religions.
  • For those who labor too long and too hard only to barely feed and clothe themselves and their families.
  • For those forced to sell their bodies to survive
  • For those women and men who live lives of quiet desperation at the hands of the powerful and prestigious.
  • For these and all who suffer

We pray, asking that the Church may once again give joyful expression to your creative love

  • Which breaks down barriers and unites person to person, woman to man, and community to community,
  • Which gives meaning and hope to empty lives and makes us reach out to each other in generous self-giving,
  • Which makes us more complete ourselves.

So God, fulfill your promise in us for the sake of all human beings through Jesus Christ.

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