Home » Gospel Reflections » August 20, 2023: Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Gospel reflection

August 20, 2023: Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Gospel: Matthew 15:21-28 (Bible Translation: The Message by Eugene H. Peterson)

From there Jesus took a trip to Tyre and Sidon. They had hardly arrived when a Canaanite woman came down from the hills and pleaded, “Mercy, Master Son of David! My daughter is cruelly afflicted by an evil spirit.”

Jesus ignored her. The disciples came and complained, “Now she’s bothering us. Would you please take care of her? She’s driving us crazy.”

Jesus refused, telling them, “I’ve got my hands full dealing with the lost sheep of Israel.”

Then the woman came back to Jesus, went to her knees, and begged, “Master, help me.”

He said, “It’s not right to take bread out of children’s mouths and throw it to dogs.”

She was quick: “You’re right, Master, but beggar dogs do get scraps from the master’s table.”

Jesus gave in. “Oh, woman, your faith is something else. What you want is what you get!” Right then her daughter became well.


I struggle in understanding Jesus’ response to the woman in need. I thought I was supposed to bring my needs to Jesus and ask for help. I believed Jesus would respond with love, mercy and kindness. Jesus initially ignores the woman. Then he isn’t responsive because her need doesn’t seem equivalent to the needs of others he is serving. Only when she goes down on her knees and begs does Jesus give in. What kind of Jesus IS this?

I know what rattles me about this passage. It is incredibly difficult for me to ask for help. By the time I come forward to ask, I am a mess and in need and usually ashamed to ask. I should be able to handle everything without help. This is the story I place on the Canaanite woman. I know her well. She had convinced herself to come for help and it has been hard. She does not need the responses she gets from Jesus because she had already told herself the same things – she deserves silence, she is not worthy of help, she should not have asked.

She comes forward with every ounce of pride and strength she can muster to mask her fear and shame. She has come to Jesus as a last resort. Of course, Jesus must know this. Jesus understands that for humans, it is far easier to offer help than to ask for and accept it. His responses offer the woman time to gather her dignity and quiet herself enough to be able to come forward on her knees with awareness that her need does not make her less worthy, less good. The story of not being good enough is the story she tells herself. Her need and willingness to ask is all Jesus requires of her.


Identify five small ways you can ask for or accept help in the coming week. These can be as simple as allowing someone to open a door for you or carry a bag of groceries. Allow yourself to feel and accept what receiving help is about.

Share this:

Alice Shelton

Providence Associate Alice Shelton lives in Indianapolis with her husband John. She is a graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and enjoys her work as director of business services at Marian University.

Subscribe to the weekly Gospel reflection

Sign up to receive the weekly Gospel reflection in your inbox each week.

Join us for Taizé Prayer

Settle your soul with prayer, simple music, intentional silence and inspirational readings in person or online.

Learn more

1 Comment

  1. Brad Crites, Providence Associate on August 20, 2023 at 10:07 am

    Alice! What a beautiful and inspiring reflection from so deep within the heart. Thank you!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.