August 20 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sometimes we come across a Gospel reading where we initially hear it and don’t know how to react!  This Sunday’s reading of Jesus initially rejecting the Canaanite woman is perhaps one of them. We may see Jesus’s treatment and response to her harsh and difficult to comprehend. Isn’t our faith in Jesus Christ based on his willingness to die for EVERYONE? Why does Jesus ignore this woman and then compare the Canaanite people to dogs? 

I’m sure there are various ways to approach this Gospel passage. One approach is to ask the question, “Could Jesus be testing the woman’s perseverance even in the midst of persecution, which is something the Apostles will eventually have to learn themselves?” I, however, would like to approach today’s Gospel with this main proposition about our own brokenness:  When God’s actions don’t match up with our will, we seem to always perceive God’s actions as harsh and questionable. 

Have you ever wanted God to act or respond to a problem in your life? And what happened when your prayers were not answered in the ways you wanted them to?  Did you throw a fit? (As I have done many times) Did you feel like God didn’t have a plan for you, let alone love you? 

Yet, what is clear throughout the Scriptures is that God loves all of us and desires to bring salvation, not only to the Israelites, but to all people (cf. 1 Tim 2:4). We fail in our perception of God’s plan in not understanding that God doesn’t always act the way we want Him to. We don’t see God’s greater picture of salvation. Jesus Christ came to fulfill the covenants (promises) given to the Israelites first, and then spread salvation to the whole world.  Hence Christ said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). And then after his death and resurrection he said, “Go, therefore and make disciples of ALL NATIONS, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:16-20).  God’s plan from the very beginning was to bring all nations, including the Canaanite woman, into His Body the Church. Yet, in its proper time and way! 

Sometimes when God doesn’t act or respond the way we want Him too, we feel that God is harsh and unresponsive.  But what we need to realize is that the Lord’s love and plan is greater than our own.  He desires the good and salvation of all people, including you and me!  Let’s, yes, learn from the Canaanite woman in perseverance, but more importantly trust in the Lord when He doesn’t respond in the way we want Him too!  

Father Michael