Reflection for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time…August 20, 2023

by Rita Melgares, Notre Dame Associate

MT 15:21-28

As a prelude to this Sunday’s Gospel reflection, we recall that Matthew arranged his account of the ministry of Jesus in 3 groups:  preaching, teaching, and healing. In his account of the Canaanite Woman’s Faith, Matthew speaks of the healing Jesus.  This narrative tells us that Jesus breaks with His usual procedures of ministering only to the Israelites and this account foresees the mission to the Gentiles.  To conclude my prelude, were you as confused as I was by Jesus’ reference of throwing food to the dogs?  Dogs were Jewish terms of contempt for the Gentiles.

In today’s Gospel, we are told that Jesus traveled up the coast to Tyre and Sidon, to avoid the problematic events in Israel (remember that at this time, the Jewish leaders were rejecting Jesus) but meeting the Canaanite woman was not a coincidence.  Jesus was going all the way to her region for a purpose…He wanted to meet the Canaanite woman and heal her daughter!

Jesus has a brief conversation with the Canaanite woman. She pleads with Him to have mercy and heal her daughter.  At first, Jesus does not answer her.  This Gentile woman who hardly knows him, keeps asking for Mercy.  Even when Jesus refers to throwing food to the dogs, ie the Gentiles, she has no resentment, no anger about her situation.  She only knows that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah who came to heal people, and for some reason, he was in her town!  She seeks Mercy from Him, and the Compassionate Jesus rewards her GREAT FAITH by healing her daughter!

Jesus wanted her to express her faith despite whatever racial tensions there were.  She knew Jesus was the Lord, the Messiah, and she asked for His Mercy and Jesus healed her daughter!!


Let us take this message of Grace to our own lives, to whoever is seeking Mercy and will believe.  If there is resistance and refusal, let us continue to pray for them.