Sunday Readings & Reflections


TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Theme: Sent to the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel. This Gospel is one of the most amazing passages in the Gospels. We are used to seeing Jesus responding generously to the needs of people, healing the sick and feeding the hungry. It all seems very natural to him. However, in today’s Gospel a non-Jewish woman comes to him to ask him to cure her sick daughter and Jesus seems reluctant. He says that priority must go to the Jews. Only when the woman insists very much does he recognise the extraordinary faith of the woman and heals her daughter.

First Reading: Is 56:16-7;
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 67;
Second Reading: Rm 11:13-15.29-32;
Gospel: Mt 15:21-28;
Resources used:
*The Sunday Missal, Paulines Publications Africa
*Painting: Poster No. 53, Pentecost – by S. Ajak Bullen


The Gospel of Matthew is the most Jewish of all the four Gospels. The community for which Matthew wrote his Gospel probably numbered many Jews among its members. Matthew felt it important to show both the newness of Jesus’ teaching and its link with Judaism. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated his attitude to the Law: he had come ‘not to abolish but to fulfil’ (Mt 5: 17-20). Later on, when Jesus sends out his disciples on their missions, he counsels them to announce the message first of all to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Mt 10:5). The reluctance of Jesus appears logical and fits in well with what he had told his disciples when they were going out. It will only be after his Resurrection that he will send his disciples to preach his message all over the world (Mt 28: 19-20). In fact, until this point in the story of the Gospel, Jesus has not proclaimed the Good News of the Kingdom outside of the territory of Israel. Jesus is the Messiah for all nations and his message is for all. But in the Gospel of Matthew, it is not Jesus who goes to non-Jews. Matthew has them come to Jesus. At his birth it is wise men from the East who come and proclaim that he is the royal messiah (Mt 2:1-12). Now it is a non-Jewish woman who comes and proclaims that Jesus is Lord and Son of David.
The harsh words of Jesus to the woman can be interpreted as an insult (Mt 15:27) but they are meant to bring out her faith and perseverance and become an example to be imitated.
This humble, persevering faith of a simple woman in a foreign land stands in stark contrast to the lack of faith Jesus finds among his own people, especially in their leaders. Here is a ‘pagan’ mother proclaiming that Jesus is Son of David.
But his own people doubt him (Mt 12:23). Even in his home town of Nazareth, Jesus can work no miracles because they lack faith (Mt 13:58). Apart from the blind men who recognise Jesus as the Son of David and ask for his help (Mt 9:27; 20:30,31) no other character in Matthew’s Gospel acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of David, except this non-Jewish woman. It will be only at his triumphant entry into Jerusalem that the people will acclaim him as Son of David (Mt 21:9,15) and in the controversy with the leaders, he will affirm it himself (Mt 22:42). Their pride in being the chosen people has made them blind and unable to see in Jesus the promised Messiah, the Son of David.
Are we Christians not the same as our Jewish ancestors in the faith? We so easily take it for granted that we are ‘saved’ and assume our lives are pleasing to God. In reality, God may no longer play any part in our lives and our prayer and Sunday Mass have become empty routines. Often the faith and eagerness of our catechumens and of the newly-baptised can be a challenge to those who have been Christians for a long time. Like Jesus, we may even be surprised to find greater faith in people who are not Christians at all. Being members of God’s family for all our lives, we can become lukewarm and risk God saying to us: ‘You are neither hot nor cold, only lukewarm. I will spit you out of my mouth’ (Rev 3:16). The Canaanite woman, like the first generation of Christians in Africa, people like the martyrs of Uganda or Blessed Bakanja from Congo show us how we should live our lives.

Sunday Readings

First Reading Isaiah 56:1.6-7

“And the foreigners I will bring to my holy mountain.”
A reading from the Book of Isaiah

Thus says the Lord: “Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed. “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, every one who keeps the sabbath, and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant – these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

The word of the Lord.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 67:2-3.5.6 and 8 (R. 4)

R. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!

O God, be gracious and bless us
and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth
and all nations learn your salvation.

R. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!

Let the nations be glad and shout for joy,
with uprightness you rule the peoples;
you guide the nations on earth.

R. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
May God still give us his blessing
that all the ends of the earth may revere him.

R. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!








SECOND READING
Romans Romans 11:13-15.29-32

“The gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans

Brethren: I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy. For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all.
The word of the Lord.

Alleluia. Jesus was preaching the Gospel of the kingdom and healing every infirmity among the people. Alleluia.
GOSPEL READING
Matthew 15:21-28

“O woman, great is your faith!”

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew

At that time: Jesus went away and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

The Gospel of the Lord.



Sunday Reflections


TWENTIETH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

*Adapted from: “Bible Study and Sharing on the Gospel of Matthew for Christian Communities”, by Richard Baawobr M.Afr — Paulines Publications Africa, 2016.