Scripture Notes – Sunday 16th August 2020

Dear friends, 

Jesus and the Canaanite Woman
This short story was important to both Mark and Matthew. It is often appreciated today because of the chutzpah of the woman herself and because Jesus is shown changing his mind (cf. Luke 24:22!!). For a long time, it has seemed to me to be a story of “retrospective permission” i.e. validating a later church practice (the inclusion fo the Gentiles) by retrojecting a story into the ministry of Jesus (who met very few Gentiles). This isn’t just a technical issue for bible nerds like myself. Assessing the origin of the story and its historicity enables one to read it more accurately (and less inaccurately!). At this point, the YouTube presentation perhaps might be helpful.

Even with that in mind, the anecdote can still speak at various “registers”. For example:

  • The woman knows her daughter’s condition and need.
  • The woman is persistent in her petition.
  • Her words are a recognition of who Jesus is (Lord, Son of David, the source of help).
  • She places her complete trust in him (her triple insistence).
  • Jesus recognises her faith — vital that the recognition comes from Jesus.
  • It is this faith which enables the healing.

 All in all, then it has more potential than one might anticipate from the narrow historical context alone.

Of course, it is always possible to go with the original energy of the story: the struggle for inclusion and the recognition that the needs of outsiders are just as great as the needs of insiders. (It reminds me of Shylock’s speech about shared humanity: If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?)

In this case, the Gospel would go really well with the reading from Romans (a rare alignment). The potential then is very wide:

  • Today: refugee crisis.

  • Today: re-emerging anti-semitism.

  • Today: racism and Black Lives Matter.

  • Today: identifying the unseen excluded in our society and church.

1.  Sunday 16 August (20A20)
Full notes (PDF)
Gospel notes only (audio)
Gospel notes only (portable)
Note: the audio no longer takes you SoundCloud but plays instead directly from the website.

Short presentations, going a little deeper into the Gospel passage.
Gospel exploration (YouTube)
Gospel exploration (Zoom)

2. Online Gospel explorations (complete list)
YouTube lectures

3. All are welcome

This Marty Haugen song gets it just right. It is the “anthem” of the Orlagh in the City community.

4. Wexford Cycle: GOOD NEWS!
Each year, I do a charity cycle for the homeless (Peter McVerry’s Welcome Home). If you’d like to contribute, click on this link here. The cycle is scheduled for Saturday, 12th September. The cycle has been cancelled except for 31 selected cyclists to mark the 31st year of the cycle. Your correspondent is among them (and is thrilled to be included). Thanks to all who have already contributed. The goal is €10k.

Every blessing,

Kieran O’Mahony OSA


Dr Kieran J. O’Mahony OSA
Biblical Studies Coordinator
Holy Cross Diocesan Centre
Clonliffe Road
Dublin D03 P2E7