A call to hope against hope

August 16, 2020 | 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

Reading 1: Isaiah 56:1, 6-7

Reading 2: Romans 11:13-15, 29-32

Gospel: Matthew 15:21-28


I really struggled to understand this week's readings. But when I was about to throw in the towel and give up, a phrase came to mind: 'hope against hope'.

I'd been hearing this phrase a lot lately. I Googled it and the definition that comes up says "to cling to a mere possibility."

This phrase entirely sums up the woman in this Sunday's Gospel. Jesus, a Jewish man, went with His disciples to the region of Tyre and Sidon. It was here that Jesus encountered a Canaanite woman, who according to Jewish custom is "ritually impure". She comes to Jesus with her pleas and cries: her daughter is tormented by a demon, and she's hoping that Jesus can cure her (Matthew 15:22). But at first, Jesus ignores her and His disciples even ask Him to send her away because of her crying. The situation looks pretty bleak at first.

Instead of giving up or backing down, the Canaanite woman comes to Jesus in an act of faith and humility: "But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, 'Lord, help me.'" (v. 25). And after being challenged by Jesus, she persists in her faith and says to Jesus that even though the Canaanites and Jews may not see eye to eye, she recognizes Him as the living God. It is here that Jesus heals her daughter, and praises her for her faith (v. 28).

When I think of this story, and then I think about myself, I think about how often I give up when the tiniest thing doesn't go my way. I think about how often I throw in the towel and stop praying when I feel that my prayers are not answered quick enough.

And yet, here is this woman who could have given up praying and trying to get her daughter healed. She faced opposition, judgement, disdain and criticism. But despite it all, she persisted. She knew what she wanted, and that was Jesus.

When I get frustrated at something, the first thought on my mind usually isn't Jesus. It's usually a complaint or finding someone or something to be angry at. But perhaps this is call to look to Jesus in everything: to kneel at His feet, pay Him homage, and remember that HE IS GOD. He is the reason why we live and breathe. He wants to celebrate our successes with us, but He also wants to be there in the midst of our sufferings and frustration.

Our God isn't a selective one. He wants every last part and fibre of us. In the same way, come kneel before Him with me when you feel frustrated or hopeless. I invite you to hope against hope the way this Canaanite woman did, and be bold in your cry for help.


Verse for reflection: But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”  — Matthew 15:25

Questions for reflection: What is my first instinct when things don't go my way, when I'm frustrated, or when I feel hopeless?

Prayer: Lord, help me to hope against hope. Help me to recognize You as my Lord and Saviour, and the one who holds dominion over my life. Give me strength and humility to always listen to You and seek Your strength. I can't do this on my own.