20th Sunday in Ordinary time


Isaiah 56: 1, 6 – 7
Romans 11:13- 15;29 – 33
Matthew 15: 21 – 28


An Exception to the Rule

Jesus was a man of principle. He stood for good living, justice and following his Father’s will in all things. He was aware that his Mission was to the lost sheep of the House of Israel – he was not called to preach and heal and announce the Kingdom to the non-Jewish world. When Jesus visits the region to the north of Israel – perhaps to get a break from the constant crowds seeking his attention in Galilee – even here, he seems to have no peace. A Canaanite woman comes pleading for Jesus to help her and her daughter.

Jesus initially ignores her. “Lady! Give me a break, why don’t you?” The disciples come and plead with Jesus. “Give her what she wants because she is shouting after us!”

Jesus says to them: ”I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel!” The woman by now, comes up to Jesus and kneels at his feet. “Lord,” she says, “help me!” Jesus persists with his principle: “It is not fair to take the children’s food and to throw it to the house dogs.” It is not right to take what God wishes to do for his Chosen People and to give it to outsiders.

But the woman has courage and trust in the mercy of Jesus. “Ah, yes, sir; but even the house dogs can eat from their master’s table.”   Jesus answers her: “Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.” And her daughter was healed from that moment.

I think this incident gives us a clue to God’s dealings with us. There are laws and rules in the Church.

‘Everyone has to go to Mass on Sundays!

You must be in a lawful marriage – between a man and a woman and married before the priest.’

No to homosexuals! No, to lesbians!  No Canaanites today, love!”

We have very many rules in the Church.

But in our prayer of faith, we can come to Jesus – the Lord of all mercy.

‘Lord, help my daughter – help my son! He (or she) is all crazy mixed up!’ We can feel that my son or daughter is a loser according to the laws of the Church.

But Jesus has – like English – an exception to most rules. If we have faith in him, he can bring even the most impossible case back from the brink of despair.

Let us pray to Jesus convinced of his mercy to all. “Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish too be granted.”

Pat McIndoe CP, a Passionist at St. Gabriel’s Retreat, Boroko, Port Moresby