20th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
August 17, 2014


Isaiah gives a piece of advice so clear and unmistakable; so straightforward and so irreproachable: “Observe what is right, do what is just.”

Well, let us start with something not so right … Yes … not so right for purists then who knew their boundaries, and who knew better than to mess up with women like that one derisively referred to as “Canaanite,” who lived in the district of Tyre and Sidon.

She deserved nothing from any self-respecting man and from a Jew, for that matter. She was totally out of bounds. And she did something totally expected, but totally uncalled for … In her extreme need, born of remarkable faith, she did the unthinkable (though expected!) … She approached the Lord and pleaded with Him in faith: “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!”

But the Lord, it must be said, also did the unthinkable. He, it must be further said, took the first step and opened Himself to being vulnerable … “Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.” He went out of bounds Himself. He went right through pagan – and hated – territory!

Good things happen for those who venture out in charity. Great things happen for those who venture out in faith and hope. And wondrous things happen when both God and suffering humanity venture out in search for one another, in order for both to do what Isaiah counseled: “observe what is right, do what is just.”

It is never right for me to think I deserve God’s help and God’s grace. I don’t deserve it. My salvation, His grace, and everything I am and have, all comes from His great and overflowing mercy. “What do I have that I have not received?” But whilst it is never right, like for me to think God owes me what I need and ask for, it is also never wrong. I don’t deserve His love, but not deserving it does not mean He does not give me what I don’t deserve strictly speaking. God loves me. God cares for me. God wills to save me. And the truth is that He has – and still – goes beyond bounds simply because He loves me and wants my salvation.

I feel like the hated Canaanite woman. I don’t strictly deserve to even do so much as show my dumb face before the august presence of the Lord. But I take it that He has gone to hated territory of Tyre and Sidon. I take it that He has gone near to where I am, in a country full of corrupt politicians and corrupt citizens like you and me … myself above all! I take it that despite my unworthiness there is something that He sees in many of us … something that He would like to see, too, in all of us … And that something has to do with what that despised woman showed herself that no one in his or her right mind can ever miss … the hope, the faith, the oozing belief that for God, nothing is ever impossible.

The suffering Christians in Iraq and Syria live in those hated territories. They are literally hated by those who do not share their faith and belief systems. The sufferings that we Filipinos have endured, and been enduring ever since we tried to banish corruption and dictatorship from our sun-blest lands, are nothing compared to what our neo-Christian martyrs in Iraq and Syria have undergone – and still – undergo.

Like the Canaanite woman, I draw near to you O Lord. Like the despised woman, I beg you O Lord, and I pray, like everyone who knows he or she does not deserve what is being asked for, but which nevertheless I utter … born more of hope, urged on even more by faith, than human desperation: “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!”

Son of David! … The despised woman had faith! The one who knew she deserved nothing believed and hoped and called Him for what He was – the promised Messiah … the gift of the Father from above!

I deserve nothing Lord … I am, at times way beyond the pale of decency on account of my selfishness and sins … I am, all too often, out on the fringes of those who do justice and do rightly. I am, and have lived so deeply in disobedience. But you have come near to where I am … to a land of sin and corruption; of selfishness and greed; of indifference and lack of social justice and charity.

I pray to you in hope. Have mercy, Son of David! I pray to you in faith. Have mercy, Son of David! Wallowing as we are in disobedience, we know by faith, that You, O Lord, will have mercy upon all!