LECTIO DIVINA: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A


Mt. 15:21-28.

A. Invoking the Holy Spirit.

We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.

          Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believes in Christ, is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to God. (s. 128,4) Amen.

B. Lectio.

With heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.

          21 Then Jesus went from that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! 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.” 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.” 27 She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” 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.

C. Meditatio.

Let us meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Matthew.

          “Actually, the Lord replied to that insistent woman: “It is not right to take the bread of the children and throw it to the dogs. You are a dog, a gentile, you adore idols.” Is there anything more habitual for a dog than to lick stones? Therefore, It is not right to take the bread from the children and throw it to the dogs. If she, upon receiving such an answer, went away she would have approached as a dog and would have retreated as a dog; but knocking at the door, from a dog she became human. She insisted in her request and, in what seemed an insult, she demonstrated her humility and obtained mercy. Thus, she did not change, she was not provoked to anger, because upon asking for a favor and begging for mercy, he called her dog, and replied thus Yes, it is, Lord. You called me a dog; I accept that I am, I accept this epithet as mine; what you said is true. But this does not exclude me from the favor. Without doubt I am a dog, but even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table. I desire a favor small and insignificant; I do not climb the table, I only look for scraps.

See, how she encourages us towards humility. The Lord had called her dog,  but she did not say “no, I’m not”, rather “yes, I am.” And for having acknowledged that she was a dog, immediately the Lord said to her: Oh, woman, great is your faith. Let it be done to you as you have asked. You recognized dog, I now recognize you as human. Oh, woman, how great is your faith. You asked, you sought, you knocked at the door; now receive, find, let them open to you. See, brothers, how in this woman who was Canaanite, of gentile origin, and type, i.e., a figure of the Church, humility above all is recommended. Truly, being excluded from the Gospel, the Jewish people became bloated with pride for having merited to receive the Law, because from their race came the Patriarchs, among them existed the prophets, because God’s servant Moses performed great miracles in Egypt that we heard in reciting the Psalm, led the people in the midst of the Red Sea when the waters receded, received the Law that God had given to this people. The Jewish people had motives for vainglory, but this pride led them not to humble themselves before Christ, the author of humility, conqueror of pride, God Healer, that is why he became man, despite being God: that man may recognize himself as man. Magnificent medicine! If this medicine does not cure pride, I do not know what can cure it” (s. 77, 10-11).

D. Oratio.

With the text, let us now pray from the depths of our heart. I suggest the following phrases and questions that can awaken in you dialogue with God, and at the same time can give rise to affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not move to the next phrase or question if you can still continue dialoguing with God in one of them. It is not a matter of exhausting the list, but of helping you to pray with some points that better fit your personal experience.

a. “Woman, great is your faith: let it be done to you as you wish” (Mt. 15:28).

  • How is your faith in Christ?
  • What can you do to increase your faith?

b. “She insisted in her request and, in what seemed to be an insult, she showed her humility and obtained mercy” (s. 77, 10).

  • How is your prayer? Do you persevere or are you quickly discouraged?
  • Why is it important to be humble to obtain mercy?

c. Pray with the phrase: “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David” (Mt. 15:22).

E. Contemplatio.

I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again you need not follow all of it, rather you can choose what fits your personal experience.

a. Contemplate how the Canaanite woman came shouting behind Jesus, and how Jesus does not detain himself, and that the disciples had to ask him to listen to the woman. Contemplate the dialogue between Jesus and the Canaanite, her humility, and how she obtained what she asked from Jesus. Contemplate and adore.

b. Contemplate and imagine that you were the Canaanite woman. That you cry out to Jesus, but he does not detain himself, and apparently he does not hear you. Contemplate how you insist, and how finally Jesus turns toward you and asks what you wish. Contemplate the face of Christ and learn how to be humble in his presence. With humility present your petitions and your prayer in the presence of Christ. Contemplate and open you heart, with simplicity before Christ.

F. Communicatio.

Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially about the petitions that you present to Christ, your humility and your perseverance in prayer. The following points can help you to share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on this text.

  • What have I discovered about God and about myself in this moment of prayer?
  • How can I apply this text of Scripture at this moment of my life? What light does it give me? What challenges does it put before me?
  • What concrete commitment does this text of Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
  • What has been my dominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?

Final Prayer of St. Augustine.

Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father almighty, with pure heart, as far as our littleness permit, allow us to give you our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that you deign to hear our petitions according to your goodwill, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that you increase our faith, govern our mind and give us spiritual thoughts and bring us to your happiness, through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps 150:8).

          “This Canaanite woman, whom the Gospel reading just now recommends to us, offers us an example of humility and a path of piety. She teaches us to climb from humility to the height” (s. 77,1).

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Fray Dunstan Huberto Decena, OAR

Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR

Priest/Religious/Bible Professor of the Order of Augustinian Recollects in the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno.

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