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Thoughts from the Early Church
Twentieth Sunday
of Ordinary Time A
August 20, 2017


Commentary by John Chrysostom
Woman, you have great faith (Mt 15:28).

The Canaanite woman whose daughter was tormented by a devil came to Christ begging his help. Most urgently she cried out: “Lord, have pity on me. My daughter is grievously tormented by a devil.”

Notice that the woman was a foreigner, a gentile, a person from outside the Jewish community. What was she then but a dog, unworthy to obtain her request? “It is not fair,” said the Lord, “to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs.”

Now would you like proof that we shall gain more by praying ourselves than by asking others to pray for us?
Nevertheless, by perseverance she became worthy; for Christ not only admitted her to the same noble rank as the children, dog though she was, 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. You see that an unworthy woman became worthy by perseverance.

Now would you like proof that we shall gain more by praying ourselves than by asking others to pray for us?

The woman cried out and “the disciples went to Christ and said: Give her what she wants—she is shouting after us.” And he said to them: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

But when the woman herself, still crying out, came to him and said: “That is true, sir, and yet the dogs eat what falls from their master’s table,” then he granted her request, saying: “Let it be as you desire.”

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.

Homily on Phil 1:18, 12-13: Bareille 5,495-496


John Chrysostom (c.347-407) was bom at Antioch and studied under Diodore of Tarsus, the leader of the Antiochene school of theology. After a period of great austerity as a hermit, he returned to Antioch where he was ordained deacon in 381 and priest in 386. From 386 to 397 it was his duty to preach in the principal church of the city, and his best homilies, which earned him the title “Chrysostomos” or “the golden-mouthed,” were preached at this time. In 397 Chrysostom became patriarch of Constantinople, where his efforts to reform the court, clergy, and people led to his exile in 404 and fmally to his death from the hardships imposed on him. Chrysostom stressed the divinity of Christ against the Arians and his full humanity against the Apollinarians, but he had no speculative bent. He was above all a pastor of souls, and was one of the most attractive personalities of the early Church.

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Edith Barnecut, OSB. was a consultant for the International Committee for English in the Liturgy, Sr. Edith was responsible for the final version of many of the readings in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Journey with the Fathers
Commentaries on the Sunday Gospels
- Year A, pp. 116-117.
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Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
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