20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A
Note: Where a Scripture text is underlined in the body of this
discussion, it is recommended that the reader look up and read that
1st Reading - Isaiah 56:1, 6-7
The name Isaiah means “Yahweh is salvation.” His book is
the first of the books of the major prophets, majority being determined
by the length of their writings. Although at the time of Christ the
entire book was believed to have been written by Isaiah himself, more
modern scholarship now sees three authors for this book.
The prophecies contained in the first part (chapters 1 through 39) of
the book refer to the period in which Isaiah himself lived.
In the second part of the book (chapters 40 through 55), the scene
changes. Isaiah now sees Babylon, almost two centuries later, at a
point when the exiled Jews are in need of consolation.
The third part (chapters 56 through 66) looks at the return of the Jews
just at the point when they are taking steps to reform their lifestyle
in keeping with the covenant even though they are very exposed to
foreign and idolatrous influences. By this time the Jews apparently
have an altar although they have not yet begun to rebuild the Temple or
the city walls.
Our reading for today comes from the beginning of this third part. The
faithful are reminded of their covenant relationship with God.
56:1 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. 6 And the
foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ministering to him, Loving
the name of the LORD, and becoming his servants –
Foreigners living within Palestine were granted limited rights and
protections. Here, full privileges are extended even to those living
outside the boundaries of the promised land. The omitted verses address
the fact that even eunuchs will be welcomed. Eunuchs were refused
admission into the assembly of the Lord (Leviticus 22:24; Deuteronomy
23:1) because it seemed improper for a person, deprived of the power of
transmitting life, to associate with the God of life.
All who keep the sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant,
7 Them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of
prayer; Their holocausts and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar,
For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
In Matthew 21:13 Jesus refers to the Temple as a “house of prayer.”
2nd Reading - Romans 11:13-15, 29-32
Last week we heard the opening verses of Chapter nine where Saint Paul
laments for Israel which has failed to recognize the messiah. The
remainder of chapter nine and all of chapter ten continue with this
lament with numerous references to the Old Testament. He points out
that Israel’s plight is not contrary to God’s direction of
history, but that their failure is derived from Israel’s own
refusal, and that this failure is partial and temporary.
13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles.
The Gentiles are not to be presumptuous or haughty because they have
accepted Christ, they have no right to look down on Israel.
Inasmuch then as I am the apostle to the Gentiles,
This is Saint Paul’s title for himself. He is apostle to the
Gentiles so that the Gentiles can serve as the example in convincing
the Jews. Although he is a Christian, Saint Paul still looks on himself
as a member of the Jewish race.
I glory in my ministry 14 in order to make my race jealous and thus save some of them.
“Paul evangelized the Gentiles of necessity, addressing himself
to them and showing that the prophets had predicted this many centuries
before. His aim was to make the Jews jealous and thus encourage some of
them to come to salvation also.” [Theodoret of Cyr (ca. A.D.
450), Interpretation of the Fourteen Epistles of Paul Romans 11:14]
15 For if their rejection
The rejection of the gospel
is the reconciliation of the world,
Israel’s rejection of the gospel has led to the reconciliation of
the Gentiles to God and even the whole universe which was cursed along
what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
Jewish acceptance of the gospel will mean for them passage from the status of death to life.
Once they are baptized they die with Christ and rise again in His new life.
29 For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. 30 Just as you
once disobeyed God but have now received mercy because of their
Gentile disobedience was disbelief in God. The attitude of Jews toward Christ represents the same sort of disobedience.
31 so they have now disobeyed in order that, by
virtue of the mercy shown to you, they too may (now) receive mercy.
Just as Jewish disobedience has been a factor in the display of divine
mercy toward Gentiles, so the mercy shown to them will be used toward
32 For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.
All, Jews and Gentiles, have as groups been unfaithful to God, who
makes use of such infidelity to manifest to all of them His bounty and
mercy – to reveal just what kind of God He really is.
“It is usually thought that those who have sinned badly by not
accepting the promise of God cannot receive mercy if they do not
demonstrate their sorrow, because those who have sinned badly cannot be
forgiven without tears and wailing. But Paul shows that these things
are not required at the start, because God’s gift freely pardons
sins in baptism.” [The Ambrosiaster (ca. A.D. 366-384),
Commentaries on Thirteen Pauline Epistles Romans 11,28]
Gospel - Matthew 15:21-28
Last week we heard of Jesus’ walking on water after the feeding
of the five thousand. This week we hear of his encounter with the
Canaanite woman prior to his feeding of the four thousand.
21 Then Jesus went from that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
These cities are in Phoenicia.
22 And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
The Canaanites were supposed to have been driven out when the Jews
invaded and occupied the promised land. She is not just a Gentile, but
one who has always been an enemy of the Jews. Not only this, she has
spoken to a man in public – she has broken two taboos.
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!
An interesting title coming from a Canaanite; she shouldn’t be
interested in perpetuating the Davidic dynasty and David was not known
as a healer.
My daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23 But he did not say a
word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send
her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
24 He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Jesus’ mission to this point has been to Israel; He does not wish to exceed His divine mission.
25 But the woman came and did him homage, saying,
“Lord, help me.” 26 He said in reply, “It is not
right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”
A very harsh statement. He is quick to point out that He is here for Israel only at this point.
27 She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs
eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”
The woman is quick to pick up on the imagery of Jesus’ reply and
turn it to her advantage, yet she does it without arrogance. Her bold
humility gets the best of Him.
28 Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman,
great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her
daughter was healed from that hour.
In all of the Gospel of Matthew, only she is said to have
“great” faith. Jesus is generous in His praise and in His
St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, MS http://www.scborromeo.org