Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
August 20, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.







O God, who have prepared for those who love you
good things which no eye can see,
fill our hearts, we pray, with the warmth of your love,
so that, loving you in all things and above all things,
we may attain your promises,
which surpass every human desire.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.Amen.

First Reading Is 56:1,6-7

Thus says the LORD: Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed. The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD ministering to him, loving the name of the LORD, and becoming his servants—all who keep the sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 67:2-3,5,6,8

R. O God, let all the nations praise you!

May God have pity on us and bless us;

may he let his face shine upon us.

So may your way be known upon earth;

among all nations, your salvation.  R.

May the nations be glad and exult

because you rule the peoples in equity;

the nations on the earth you guide.  R.

May the peoples praise you, O God;

may all the peoples praise you!

May God bless us,

and may all the ends of the earth fear him!  R.

Second Reading Rom 11:13-15,29-32

Brothers and sisters: I am speaking to you Gentiles.  Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous and thus save some of them.  For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.  Just as you once disobeyed God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now disobeyed in order that, by virtue of the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.

Gospel Acclamation Cf. Mt 4:23


Gospel Mt 15:21-28

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, "Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon." But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.  Jesus' disciples came and asked him, "Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us." He said in reply, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, "Lord, help me."  He said in reply, "It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters." Then Jesus said to her in reply, "O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish." And the woman's daughter was healed from that hour.

Catena Nova

Notice that the woman was a foreigner, a gentile, a person from outside the Jewish community....Nevertheless, by perseverance she became worthy; for Christ not only admitted her to the same noble rank as the children…but he also sent her away with high praise, saying: “Woman, you have great faith. Let it be as you desire.” Now when Christ says: “You have great faith,” you need seek no further proof of the woman’s greatness of soul…. Have you understood? When the disciples entreated him the Lord put them off, but when the woman herself cried out begging for this favor he granted it. And at the beginning, when she first made her request, he did not answer, but after she had come to him once, twice, and a third time, he gave her what she desired. By this he was teaching us that he had withheld the gift not to drive her away, but to make that woman’s patience an example for all of us. Now that we have learned these lessons, let us not despair even if we are guilty of sin and unworthy of any favor. We know that we can make ourselves worthy by perseverance (St. John Chrysostom).

She seized the Kingdom, this Canaanite woman who, having left her country, cried out, saying: “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly tormented by a demon.” She truly forced the Kingdom, persistent in her prayers, wise in her responses, faithful in her words. She calls back He who passes her by, prays to him when He is silent, adores Him when He recuses Himself, submits to his refusal. Does she not seem to you to steal, when she coaxes from him that which was refused, when she snatches away that which was reserved for others? …. Let us force it too, then; let us steal it. (St. Ambrose).
The boldness of our love is pleasing to you, O Lord, just as it pleased you that we should steal from your bounty.  (St. Ephrem the Syrian)

Let us persevere in prayer at all times. For if Our Lord seems not to hear us, it is not because He wants to refuse us. Rather, His purpose is to compel us to cry out louder and to make us more conscious of the greatness of His mercy….It is also to elicit proofs of our patience. This was the third virtue which accompanied the Canaanite woman’s prayer. Seeing her perseverance, the Saviour desired to prove her patience, too. By this virtue we maintain, as far as possible, equality of mind among the inequalities of this life. (St. Francis de Sales)

The Church cannot forget that she received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded the Ancient Covenant. Nor can she forget that she draws sustenance from the root of that well-cultivated olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles. (Second Vatican Council).

As distinct from all other controversy dialogues, Jesus does not have the last word. Rather, the woman’s argument prevails over that of Jesus. The parabolic saying of Jesus against the admission of gentiles to the community of Jesus provokes the intelligent retort of the woman. She takes up Jesus’ parabolic image of the “table-children-housedogs” and uses it to argue against him. The woman “wins” the contest because Jesus, convinced by her argument … liberated her daughter from the demon…. [The woman whose] adroit argument opened up a future of freedom and wholeness for her daughter has also become the historically-still-visible advocate of such a future for gentiles. She has become the apostolic “foremother” of all gentile Christians (Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza).


Jesus points to this humble woman as a model of unwavering faith. Her persistence in beseeching Christ’s intervention is incentive for us not to become discouraged, not to despair when we are burdened by life’s difficult trials. The Lord does not turn away in the face of our needs and, if at times he seems insensitive to our requests for help, it is in order to put to the test and to strengthen our faith. We must continue to cry out like this woman: “Lord, help me! Lord, help me!”. In this way, with perseverance and courage. This is the courage needed in prayer.  (Pope Francis)


“She was warned.  She was given an explanation.  Nevertheless, she persisted.”  Who can forget those words of a former Senate Majority Leader after he shut down another senator's objections to the nomination of a former Attorney General? The final straw was when she attempted to read a letter of Coretta Scott King from the senate floor objecting to a previous nomination of the candidate to the federal bench for using "the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens.…in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters."   
More recent examples include include a federal judge attacked by a leading politician under indictment as "VERY BIASED AND UNFAIR" to which she has responded, "I will take whatever measures are necessary to safeguard the integrity of these proceedings." "The existence of a political campaign will not have any bearing on my decision."  Nevertheless, she persisted.
The same politician has spoke of a District Attorney as, “a young woman, a young racist in Atlanta. And they say, I guess they say, she was after a certain gang and she ended up having an affair with the head of the gang or a gang member. And this is a person that wants to indict me, she’s got a lot of problems. But she wants to indict me to try to run for some other office.”  Well, now she has, commenting. “I make decisions in this office based on the facts and the law. The law is completely non-partisan.”  Nevertheless, she persisted.
Finally, another leading politician has suspended an elected state attorney for her charging discretion, saying "what [she] has done is abuse that discretion and…effectively nullified certain laws in the state" and is "clearly and fundamentally derelict, so as to constitute both neglect of duty and incompetence."  To which she has replied, "I am your duly-elected State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit. Nothing done by a weak dictator can change that…. This is an outrage.”  Nevertheless, she persisted.
Now I realize plenty of men have been targets of inflammatory rhetoric and attacks in the current political climate. But that phrase, in the words of one commentator “is a phrase we women embrace because persistence is what we do…. We women persist. Isn’t that our job? Throughout history, we have persisted in our quest for respect, for justice, for equal rights, for suffrage, for education, for enfranchisement, for recognition, for making our voices heard. In the face of violence, of opposition, of ridicule, of belittlement, even of jail time, nevertheless, we have persisted” (Valerie Schultz, America, March 31, 2017).
As did the unnamed woman from today’s gospel.  After repeated requests that her prayer be heard, all she got from Jesus was silence.  He did not say a word in answer to her That did not, however, deter her.  She kept calling out after (G) the Lord and the disciples.  She persisted. 
Finally, Jesus spoke.  Only to tell her she had no business asking anything of him.  After all, he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (G).  You'd think this rebuff would be enough to discourage her.  Not a chance.  The woman renews her plea, going so far as doing this Jewish rabbi homage!  She persisted.
What’s worse, the Lord then takes to insulting her, using a term of contempt for Gentiles common among the Jews: It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs (G).  I can’t imagine too many people sticking around after that.  But this woman is no quitter.  She takes the insult on the chin, acknowledging her inferior status when compared to the children of Abraham. Indeed, she would be happy with the scraps from their table.  And at last, Jesus is moved, saying, O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish (G).  Because she persisted.
It’s not easy to understand Jesus’ treatment of this woman.  His behavior clashes with so many others scenes in the gospel where pity for human suffering is the rule.  Certainly, Jesus knew his Bible.  Like the passage from Isaiah where the prophet speaks of foreigners who join themselves to the LORD . . . loving the name of the LORD and becoming his servants (I).  So what gives?
Well, the story in question makes no sense apart from the woman’s persistent faith: a faith which proved itself through perseverance in the face of repeated obstacles.  Jesus’ apparently heartless attitude might be appreciated if seen as a test meant to exercise the woman’s considerable resolve.  Like a trainer who makes what seem excessive demands on an athlete, the Lord taxes the woman’s faith, but not beyond her strength.  The Teacher knows well his method, and his purpose. Moreover, the lesson is not lost on others who witness this little exercise: God is moved by faith: persistent, persevering, and patient faith.
But I think there’s more to the story.  For what God seeks from us, God shows us first.  Indeed, God persists.  And so the woman might be seen as an image of such a God: a God who seeks us relentlessly, despite our indifference, our silence, and even our contempt for God’s ways. It’s God, after all, who so often receives little more than scraps from our table.  Nevertheless, God persists, perseveres, and waits patiently for a response.  
Like Francis Thompson’s Hound of Heaven, God pursues us with offers of love that makes all other loves pale – even when

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;

I fled Him, down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways

Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears

I hid from Him, and under running laughter.

Up vistaed hopes I sped

     But the poet continues:

those strong Feet that followed, followed after.

But with unhurrying chase,

And unperturbèd pace,

Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,

They beat—and a Voice beat

More instant than the Feet—

‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’

Yes, we flee from his approach, as though God’s love were to be spurned, as if coming from an unworthy suitor.  And yes, perhaps the Canaanite woman is a symbol of such a rejected and despised God who never quits, no matter how much an outsider we make God out to be.
Paul knew such a faithful God, whose gifts and call are irrevocable. A God who knew rejection and turned it into a blessing for others.  That is, us Gentiles, who have received mercy through the disobedience of Israel.  And in the end this faithful God will bring Israel to faith also, so that God might have mercy upon all (cf. II).  For from him and through him and for him are all things.  To him be glory forever.  Amen. (Rm. 11:36)

Intercessions (Joe Milner; The Sunday Website)

For the Church: that we may be instruments of God’s mercy, guides for all who are seeking God, and companions to those developing a relationship with God.

For the Jewish people whom God has irrevocably called: that they may experience the compassion and mercy of God more fully.

For an end to racism and prejudice: that God will turn hearts and change minds so that everyone may be respected, and their dignity affirmed.

For countries and people who are divided by religious belief: that the Spirit of God will bring about new opportunities for understanding and cooperation.

For refugees and immigrants, particularly those fleeing violence: that God will ease their suffering, guide them to safety, and stir the hearts of many to assist them.

For all who are recovering from hurricanes, wildfires, explosions, or other disasters: that God will ease their pain, give them strength, and renew their hope.

For all who are sick: that God’s healing love will strengthen them, remove their pain, and restore them to wholeness.

For students, particularly those who will be away from home for the first time: that God will help them learn, stay safe, and find the resources they need to assist them in the coming months.

God of the nations, to your table all are invited and in your family no one is a stranger. Satisfy the hunger of those gathered in this house of prayer, and mercifully extend to all the peoples on earth the joy of salvation and faith. Grant this through Christ our Lord.  Amen. (ICEL; 1998)

Offertory Motet (Josquin Desprez)


O Jesu, fili David, miserere mei:

Filia mea male a daemonio vexatur.

Nam et catelli edunt de micis, quae cadunt

De mensa dominorum suorum.

O mulier, magna est fides tua.

O Jesus, son of David, have pity on me:

My daughter is badly tormented by a demon.

Even dogs eat the crumbs which fall

From the table of their masters.

O woman, your faith is great.

Communion Antiphon  

Closing Hymn  

We cannot measure how You heal
or answer every sufferer’s prayer,
yet we believe your grace responds
where faith and doubt unite to care.
Your hands, though bloodied on the cross,
survive to hold and heal and warn,
to carry all through death to life
and cradle children yet unborn.
The pain that will not go away,
the guilt that clings from things long past,
the fear of what the future holds,
are present as if meant to last.
But present too is love which tends
the hurt we never hoped to find,
the private agonies inside,
the memories that haunt the mind.
So some have come who need Your help
and some have come to make amends,
as hands which shaped and saved the world
are present in the touch of friends.
Lord, let Your Spirit meet us here
to mend the body, mind and soul,
to disentangle peace from pain
and make Your broken people whole.