Who we are

Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, an Australian community, in a worldwide religious congregation.

Ministry Mission

Jesus loved with a human heart: with him we proclaim his love to the world.

Peace, Justice, Creation

We work to discover through advocacy, healing and reconciliation, God's presence in our world.


We are to be on earth the heart of God. God has no other heart but ours.


20th sunday

Twentieth Sunday of the Year

August 20th 2017

Suggested formula for recognition of indigenous people and their land.

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we stand

We pay our respects to them for their care of the land

May we walk gently and respectfully upon the land.


I acknowledge the living culture of the ……..people,

the traditional custodians of the land we stand on,

and pay tribute to the unique role they play in the life of this region.


As we gather today let us acknowledge the local traditional custodians of this land,

and the first people that live in our own respective areas

.........for they have performed age-old ceremonies

of storytelling, music, dance, celebrations and renewal

and along with all Aboriginal people,

hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Aboriginal Australia.

We acknowledge this living culture and its unique role in the life of Australia today

and acknowledge with honour and respect our Elders past, present and future and pay our respects to those who have, and still do, guide us with their wisdom.

Finally, we acknowledge with shame that much suffering

still endures to the present generation.

We pray today with faith and hope

for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and ourselves

that God’s mercy and justice will walk

in our lives, our communities and in the heart of our nation.

“Interred beneath the runways and the sea are the sites of some of the first encounters between Indigenous Australians and British marines and convicts; places where they approached one another with ‘emotions of pleasure, astonishment, curiosity and timidity’ – exchanging gifts and gestures of introduction, touching hair, skin and clothes – each searching tentatively for proof of the others’ humanity.”

(Professor Mark McKenna From the Edge: Australia’s Lost Histories)





First reading: Isaiah 56:1, 6-7

Second reading: Romans 11:13-15, 29-32

Gospel reading: Matthew 15:21-28

Penitential Rite

1.       Christ Jesus, Son of David, you revealed to us the God of all people: Jesus, have mercy.

2.      Christ Jesus, you came to free all people and you died and rose for all: Christ, have mercy

3.       Christ Jesus, you hear the prayer of all who feel themselves marginalised and make yourself known to all those who seek you: Jesus, have mercy.


  • Jesus, you healed all who called upon you: Jesus, have mercy.
  • Jesus, you sat at table with sinners: Christ, have mercy.
  • Jesus, you call us to love each other as you have loved us: Jesus, have mercy.

Opening Prayer

God of all nations,

you chose the people of Israel

to make you known to all the nations.

Your Son, Jesus, made it clear

that forgiveness and fullness of life are offered

to all who believe in him.

May your Church be truly a place of encounter

for all those who seek you,

where all obstacles and barriers are removed

and a place where the riches of all nations and cultures

reveal the thousand faces your goodness and love.


God of all nations,

all are invited to your table

where no one is a stranger.

Satisfy the hungerings

of those gathered in this house of prayer,

and extend to all the peoples

the joy of liberation, justice and peace.


God of all nations,

you see beyond our diverse races and creeds

to the value of each individual.

Remove from our minds and hearts

the prejudice that clouds our judgments

and degrades our capacity to love others.

Prayer over the Gifts

God of all nations,

you have prepared a welcoming table

for all who wish to come to you

from the diversity of the human family.

As we offer this bread and wine,

may we learn from Christ Jesus

to give generously to all those who ask

the food of love, mercy and peace.

Prayer after Communion

God of all nations,

in this Eucharist

we are  called to become one

in Jesus Christ your Son.

May his likeness be reflected

in the face of each person

and not marred or divided

by our prejudices and fears.

General Intercessions

Introduction: Let us pray to the God of all nations whose heart and presence is open to all who seek peace, goodness, love and justice. The response is: Listen to your people, O God.

·         That as we face ongoing tensions in our region, we may have the power to be gentle, strong in our forgiving, and have the vision to see and believe in a world that can be emancipated from violence, injustice and unnecessary suffering to others, and threat, let us pray: Listen to your people, O God.

·         That all people who work to build peace in their communities may inspire others by their example and continue to be strengthened to continue despite difficulties and apparent lack of results, let us pray: Listen to your people, O God.

·         That all people who have been affected by violence may find ways to rebuild their lives and find it in their hearts to move forward in peace and forgiveness, let us pray: Listen to your people, O God.

·         That the church throughout the world; and believers who pray in every known language, may offer a generous welcome to all those who seek a home in the church, let us pray: Listen to your people, O God.

·         That the nations of the world will seek nonviolent solutions to their differences, let us pray: Listen to your people, O God.

·         That the people of Iraq, Gaza and Israel, Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, (and………..) will be comforted in their afflictions, healed of ethnic tensions, liberated from foreign domination so that the land will be renewed, let us pray: Listen to your people, O God.

·         That children who are forced to leave their homes because of poverty, violence or environmental disaster will find a safe home and a future filled with hope, let us pray: Listen to your people, O God.

·         That the people who have languished on Australian offshore detention centres may eventually be granted freedom and security in a place they can call home amongst people who welcome them and befriend them, let us pray: Listen to your people, O God.

·         That Church leaders may be attentive to the life and needs of today's world especially women and youth, and discover in all the aspirations, what leads toward hope in their lives, let us pray: Listen to your people, O God.

·         That there may be room for the cultural riches of various peoples in the Church and in our own lives, which through many languages and forms of expression manifest the goodness and beauty of God, let us pray: Listen to your people, O God.

·         That all of us here may be concerned about those who are not present because they are estranged from the Church: may our words and actions reveal Christ’s inclusive love to them, let us pray: Listen to your people, O God.

·         That we realise that God is God of all people: may we especially in this time of uncertainty and fear: accept all people as our sisters and brothers with openness and without discrimination because of the destructive actions of a minority, let us pray: Listen to your people, O God.

·         That our approach to people who are different in whatever way may be continually one of acceptance and welcome, let us pray: Listen to your people, O God.

Concluding Prayer: God of all peoples and lands, listen to our prayers today and give us the Spirit of Jesus so that we may be open to all people and their needs.


August 23 International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition

August 26 The 2001 rescue of 433 asylum seekers by the Norwegian vessel MV Tampa, and the subsequent prevention of their disembarkation by Australian troops

August 27 Death of Dom Helder Camara osb in 1999

August 27 Refugee and Migrant Sunday Resources:


Further Resources

I'm going to speak to you simply as a pastor, as one who, together with his people, has been learning the beautiful but harsh truth that the Christian faith does not cut us off from the world but immerses us in it; the church is not a fortress set apart from the city. The church follows Jesus, who lived, worked, struggled, and died in the midst of a city, in the polis.

Archbishop Oscar Romero

The road to holiness passes through the world of action.

Dag Hammarskjöld, UN Secretary-General killed in the Congo on September 18, 1961.

God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.

Dag Hammarskjöld

’Freedom from fear’ could be said to sum up the whole philosophy of human rights.

Dag Hammarskjöld

Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?"

Martin Luther King Jr.

I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice. I don’t want just any greatness for it, particularly a greatness born of blood and falsehood. I want to keep it alive by keeping justice alive.

Albert Camus

What is it to be a companion of Jesus today? It is to engage, under the standard of the cross, in the crucial struggle of our time: the struggle for faith and that struggle for justice which it includes."

Ignacio Ellacuria

Creator God, ground of my being and goal of my journeying,

I believe in You.

I believe in you more than I believe in my own complaints,

                                more than my anxieties and midnight fears,

                                more than my puzzlement and doubts.

Christ Jesus, source of my healing and joy of my desiring,

I believe in you.

I believe in you more than the boasts of the arrogant,

                                more than the duplicity of the cunning,

                                more than the cynicism of the embittered.

Holy Spirit, breath of my hoping and fire of my loving,

I believe in you.

 I believe in you more than the myopia of the clever,

                                more than the evasions of the cowardly,

                                more than the apathy of the negligent.

Holy God, you are far too big for our minds yet humble enough

                                to reside with the meek and the poor

                                and to craft beauty out of disasters.

I believe in you.

Yes! I believe in You!

Bruce Prewer

Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a function.

Garrison Keillor

God writes a lot of comedy... the trouble is, God's stuck with so many bad actors who don't know how to play funny.

Garrison Keillor

Going to church no more makes you a Christian than standing in a garage makes you a car.

Garrison Keillor.

Another world is not only possible,

she is on her way.

On a quiet day I can hear her breathing.

Arundhati Roy

Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) German Dramatist

A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday

Alexander Pope (1688-1744) English poet

He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.

Edmund Burke(1729-1797) Irish-born British statesman, parliamentary orator, and political thinker

Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind.

Henry Miller (1891-1980) American writer

The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with an idea that it is literally a ‘pet’ notion and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different

John Dewey

It is hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head.

Sally Kempton

There is a growing awareness of the sublime dignity of human persons, who stand above all things and whose rights and duties are universal and inviolable. They ought, therefore, to have ready access to all that is necessary for living a genuinely human life: for example, food, clothing, housing, ... the right to education, and work...

Vatican II, The Church and the Modern World, #26

We exact your elements to make cannons and bombs

But out of our elements you create lilies and roses.

How patient you are earth and how merciful!

Kahil Gibran

Each person has inside a basic decency and goodness. If he listens to it and acts on it, he is giving a great deal of what it is the world needs most. It is not complicated but it takes courage. It takes courage for a person to listen to his own goodness and act on it.

Pablo Casals

... when we seek guidance in terms of discernment and decisions we need to look not just to God in heaven, but also to what is being pointed out to us by the Body of Christ on earth, namely, our families, our friends, our churches, and our communities. ...  God does not speak to us through séances, and the most important things that God wants to say to us are not given in extraordinary mystical visions.  The God of the incarnation has real flesh on earth and speaks to us in the bread and butter of our lives, though things that have skin - historical circumstance, our families, our neighbors, our churches.

Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing,

At least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols.

Aldous Huxley:

Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder... And that is war in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles.

Eugene Victor Debs

The most shocking fact about war is that its victims and its instruments are individual human beings, and that these individual beings are condemned by the monstrous conventions of politics to murder or be murdered in quarrels not their own.

Aldous Huxley, English novelist and critic, 1894-1963

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us, ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest -- a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.

Albert Einstein - (1879-1955) Nobel Prize 1921

Until we go through it ourselves, until our people cower in the shelters of New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles and elsewhere while the buildings collapse overhead and burst into flames, and dead bodies hurtle about and, when it is over for the day or the night, emerge in the rubble to find some of their dear ones mangled, their homes gone, their hospitals, churches, schools demolished - only after that gruesome experience will we realize what we are inflicting on the people of Indochina

William Shirer, author 1973

The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity.

George Bernard Shaw

The civility of no race can be perfect whilst another race is degraded. It is a doctrine alike of the oldest and of the newest philosophy, that man is one, and that you cannot injure any member, without a sympathetic injury to all the members.

Ralph Waldo Emerson. 1844

As I watch government at all levels daily eat away at our freedom,

I keep thinking how prosperity and government largesse

have combined to make most of us fat and lazy and indifferent to,

or actually in favor of,

the limits being placed on that freedom.

Lyn Nofziger - [Franklyn C. Nofziger] Press Secretary for President Reagan

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may tread me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops.

Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don't you take it awful hard

'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines

Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I've got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame

I rise

Up from a past that's rooted in pain

I rise

I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

Maya Angelou

It is never too late to give up our fears and prejudices.No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof.What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true today may turn out to be falsehood tomorrow, mere smoke of opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would sprinkle rain on their fields.What other people say you cannot do, you try and find that you can. Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new.

Henry David Thoreau

Making Peace

A voice from the dark called out,

‘The poets must give us

imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar

imagination of disaster. Peace, not only

the absence of war.’

But peace, like a poem,

is not there ahead of itself,

can't be imagined before it is made,

can't be known except

in the words of its making,

grammar of justice,

syntax of mutual aid.

A feeling towards it,

dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have

until we begin to utter its metaphors,

learning them as we speak.

A line of peace might appear

if we restructured the sentence our lives are making,

revoked its reaffirmation of profit and power,

questioned our needs, allowed

long pauses. . . .

A cadence of peace might balance its weight

on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,

an energy field more intense than war,

might pulse then,

stanza by stanza into the world,

each act of living

one of its words, each word

a vibration of light--facets

of the forming crystal.

Denise Levertov

I will not play at tug o'war.

I'd rather play at hug o'war,

Where everyone hugs

Instead of tugs,

Where everyone giggles

And rolls on the rug,

Where everyone kisses,

And everyone grins,

And everyone cuddles,

And everyone wins.

Shel Silverstein, American Cartoonist, Children's Author

Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.

Shel Silverstein

How many slams in an old screen door? Depends how loud you shut it. How many slices in a bread? Depends how thin you cut it. How much good inside a day? Depends how good you live 'em. How much love inside a friend? Depends how much you give 'em.

Shel Silverstein

Anyone can slay a dragon, he told me,

but try waking up every morning

and loving the world all over again.

That’s what takes a real hero.

Brian Andreas, American Artist and Storyteller

For it isn't enough to talk about peace.

One must believe in it.

And it isn't enough to believe in it.

One must work at it.

Eleanor Roosevelt American First Lady

I'm fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.

George McGovern, United States Senator, 1972 Presidential Candidate

Where there is faith, there is love;

Where there is love, there is peace;

Where there is peace, there is God;

And where there is God; there is no need.

Leo Tolstoy, Russian Novelist

True peace is not for the spineless or self-absorbed. It has nothing to do with passivity or resignation. Peace demands honesty. It entails the burden of duty. Peace requires deeds of love.

Johann Christoph Arnold

When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.

Jimi Hendrix American Musician, Guitarist, Singer, Songwriter

We have all taken risks in the making of war. Isn't it time that we should take risks to secure peace?

J. Ramsay MacDonald, British Prime Minister

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States

Give me the money that has been spent in war and I will clothe every man, woman, and child in an attire of which kings and queens will be proud.  I will build a schoolhouse in every valley over the whole earth. I will crown every hillside with a place of worship consecrated to peace.

Charles Sumner US Senator from Massachusetts

The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem,

it is generally employed only by small children and large nations.

David Friedman

In order to rally people, governments need enemies. They want us to be afraid, to hate, so we will rally behind them. And if they do not have a real enemy, they will invent one in order to mobilize us.

Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, Peace activist, Author

Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience ... Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves ... [and] the grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem.

Howard Zinn

An Outsider’s Faith

Matthew 15:21-28

He came unto this alien shore,

this weary Christ.

He looked to work no wonders here,

just take some rest.

My neighbours saw him as a crank

a weirdo priest.

I saw him as my one last hope

to save my child.

And followed him along the street

with my face veiled.

I needed to get close to him

and would not yield.

His friends thought me an unclean thing

too foul to touch.

They asked him to get rid of me

a pagan wretch.

I flung myself down at his feet

within his reach.

He placed his hand upon my head,

all heaven was there.

I told him of my daughter’s plight

and felt his care.

He send me dancing down the street

light as the air!

Ó B D Prewer 1996

There is nothing that war has ever achieved

that we could not better achieve without it.

Havelock Ellis, English Psychologist

I Refuse

for Camilo Mejia [U.S. Citizen Imprisoned Without Trial or Charges for over 3 Years]

I refuse to be used as a tool of war.

I refuse to kill on order.

I refuse to give my life for a lie.

I refuse to be indoctrinated or subordinated.

I refuse to allow the military to define all I can be.

I refuse to abdicate my responsibilities as a citizen of the world.

I refuse to deny the human rights of any person.

I refuse to suspend my conscience.

I refuse to give up my humanity.

I refuse to be silenced.

Do you hear me?

David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

All Aboard

On the Underground

passengers killing time between places,

the doors open

an Asian guy

fear burning his eyes out

stumbles in

while pursuing cops throw him down

to the subway's floor


automatically shoot him to death,

a public execution

carried out

at Prime Minister Poodles order

at killing times between places.

Stew Albert

The one gift of salvation coming from God through Jesus-Sophia in the Spirit upends power relationships, transforming all teachers, fathers, masters, great ones into servants of the little ones.

Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, She Who Is

A day will come when a cannon will be exhibited in museums,

 just as instruments of torture are now,

and the people will be astonished

 that such a thing could have been.

Victor Hugo, French Author & Novelist

Women are equally created in the image and likeness of God, equally redeemed by Christ, equally sanctified by the Holy Spirit; women are equally involved in the ongoing tragedy of sin and the mystery of grace, equally called to mission in this world, equally destined for life with God in glory

Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, She Who Is

I pledge allegiance to the world to cherish every living thing,

to care for earth and sea and air,

with peace and freedom everywhere.

Source unknown

Violence never again!

War never again!

Terrorism never again!

In God's name,

may all religions bring upon earth

justice and peace,

forgiveness, life and love!

Pope John Paul II, January 24, 2002

Reflections on the readings…..

The painful reality of people seeking asylum and people who are undocumented has caused some people remind us, at least Americans, of the saying on the Statue of Liberty, the “Mother of the Exiles’:

‘Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’

It suggests a challenge to actually cross the borders of the mind, the heart and into the world toward the ‘other’. A poetic remix of the words on the Statue of Liberty could be: ‘Give me those you consider dogs. Send these to me: the refugee, the alien, the foreigner, and more. Send the wretched refuse, the ailing daughters of ostracised women, because they yearn to be free.’ (Unknown source). We see this in the gospel story today.

One must wonder why Jesus would leave his familiar, comfortable territory and people—the disciples and the Pharisees—to enter a sort of red-light district, a place most people would not dare to go. Going there is socially unacceptable; it’s where the so-called outcasts, unclean, and undesirables live. The gospel passage is certainly uncomfortable and disturbing with Jesus’ response to the woman. We only speculate why the story was even told and what we are to learn from it, but we discover that the outsider finds a place on the inside of the heart of God.

A woman, a mother, gets in Jesus’ face to get him to heal her daughter when the pleas of the two blind men and the father of the epileptic boy received quick responses. Jesus has not ignored anyone before who pleaded for compassion. When he finally speaks with her, he insists he has nothing for her and that his mission is only to his own people.

If she only sought healing for herself, she might have given up, but she is a mother and usually nothing fuels a mother’s audacity more than concern for her child’s well-being. She kneels before Jesus but also blocks his way and his response is terribly insulting.

Unfortunately, she is one of the ‘dogs’ - a disparaging metaphor and derogatory term popular for describing gentiles. Whilst we might sentimentalise and befriend dogs but positive references to dogs in the scriptures are very rare… and often portrayed as scavengers. In many African countries, in Asia and in even Aboriginal communities, there are many dogs that are running loose. Nearly all are scrawny and roam around sifting through rubbish looking out for food. They seem barely tolerated or ignored.

In the gospel, the unnamed Canaanite woman reaches out to touch the door of God’s heart so that her daughter may be free. Mothers who have little enough to feed their children don’t toss sausages and crusts to the dog. That’s the worldview from which Jesus makes his comment to the woman in our Gospel. She asks him to heal her daughter to which he responds, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel... It isn't right to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs.’ Jesus’ attitude reflected the racial prejudice of most other Jews of his day. There was little positive to be expected from Canaanites who were demonised by the Jews much in the way that Muslims amongst us have been demonised in recent years.

We can grateful that Matthew included this moment where Jesus seems to act churlish. Through the bold words of a stranger, his mind and heart were changed. What seems a shocking story as it seems to portray Jesus mouthing prejudice; the story was told and retold because Jesus abandoned his apparent narrow view of his mission in favour of compassion and inclusion. The gospel writers portray him as saying what many people of his time would have: Israelites are God’s children; Gentiles are like the dogs. The good news is that Jesus did not remain bound by such distinctions. Though he allowed himself to be persuaded by this woman – it is not often the case in the church where women, gays and lesbians, people of colour, people from different cultures are concerned.

She will not back down. She continues to ‘nip’ at his heels. She takes Jesus’ metaphor and turns it back on him. Even the dogs get to eat the children’s crumbs; even the pets get the scraps that fall from their master’s table!’ She argues that that even on his own terms, there has to be something from him for someone like her.

This is the day that the gospel of Jesus goes to the dogs. Where those in power saw an outcast - Jesus sees a woman’s faith and love, and heals her daughter. God’s circle of love, mercy and compassion is expanded to include those once considered outsiders. The day the gospel went to the dogs is the day it came to us. We are the ‘dogs’ who have received the good news of the gospel! This marginal woman who is outside the field of Jesus’ ministry (‘It's not my job. I’ve got others to care for. I do not come from here’) challenges his ideas about his calling. He is not to set limits to it. Despite the double whammy being both a Canaanite and a woman, she is not afraid to confront this Jewish man named Jesus, who she knows can help her in her desperate need.  She goes against social and religious norms to obtain healing for her child. She speaks up and out to this man she calls ‘Son of David’ for mercy, not knowing what his response will be. She takes a stand, a risk, and crosses a borderline without knowing what his response will be. he seems to be short on empathy because he, like those who follow him, are concerned only with exclusivity in favour of their own people.

Despite resistance, she does not give up. No doubt she is accustomed to being treated this way, and continues to speak until she gets what she wants. She is not willing to allow the norms that might prohibit her approaching Jesus be normative. She goes against them and shows her humanity to Jesus: ‘Lord, help me.’ She is a human in need like any other human and so is her daughter. This woman shows how a person can be bold and brave in approaching God without fear. She has her eyes on the prize of the healing of her daughter, and nothing can deter her—not even an apparent insult from Jesus. Society’s strikes against her do not limit her faith, or her tenacity to reach beyond existential borders. Silence is not an option, only salvation and healing. She believes that her daughter deserves healing—health care—like any other person.

Despite initial resistance, Jesus gives in to this foreigner and embodies God’s mercy for all. Through engagement with the other, it is possible to learn of their human need—that is, that they are not dogs but humans, who have feelings, needs, and children, who desire mercy and healing like everyone else. Through this encounter, it is possible to see—even if the disciples do not—that we are more alike than different, that we are all children of God.

The gospel illustrates a new inclusiveness. Faced with human need, Jesus is persuaded that people matter most. No one is excluded. No one can be treated like dogs. There are many ‘dogs’ in our community who know what it is like to be shut out, told to wait, given second best, or even neglected. This woman gives them a voice. And Jesus listened! The challenge for us is to hear the questioning voice of God through this woman’s (or anyone’s) demand for attention and dignity.

Isaiah warns us about boundaries and how we can treat people as ‘dogs’ either in word or action. Isaiah points to God's invitation to outcasts, including sexual outcasts (for some reason this was left out in the text!!) and foreigners, to the messianic banquet: women are still deprived of full ministry in the churches and many other people [gays] are still alien in most churches, mosques and synagogues. Their liberation is still of no great concern to many bishops, rabbis and mullahs who cannot imagine such people amongst them. But they are persistent, though on the margins, and seek God’s liberation and intimacy. Paul too saw a special place for ‘outsiders’ in God’s plan beginning with those who were non-Jewish. If Christ died for all - then no one can be dismissed; no one can be considered a ‘dog’, no one can be excluded from God's all-embracing and relentless love.

Today, God’s questioning voice might come through the challenge to Israel’s exclusivism and territorial claims over Palestinian territory or US and Australian exceptionalism. That questioning voice might come through the faces, cries, heartbreak and deep losses experienced by people seeking asylum. That questioning voice might come through the child who wants reassurance that she or he is unconditionally loved. We see in the pagan woman of the gospel voicing her prayer, ‘have pity on me, Lord.... My daughter/son/grandchild is tormented’ through parents, friends, loved ones for those who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, or experienced abuse or found themselves mixing with the wrong crowd.

Jesus, like the prophets, encourage us to live differently. They try to take us beyond the narrow confines of our lives in order to respond to those whose spirits are crushed by poverty, trauma, and abuse, whose intellect and imagination could lift whole families and villages out of poverty but for the lack of education; whose bodies are wounded or killed by hunger, disease and violence. Those narrow places today are clearly visible in the resistance to climate change, to accepting asylum seekers, to seeing people who are different to us in looks, culture, religion or ethnicity, to seeing other ways of dealing with conflict rather than violence. That might be particularly relevant as we are quick to condemn Muslim people for any misdeed of others.

Jesus continues to go beyond the narrow places in his many encounters as also with the woman in the gospel today. We are not always good at listening. We give quick answers, justifications, rationalisations and clichés to dismiss the suffering of others. What a difference it would make if we and our leaders were open to listening to others. How might things be different if we had tried to listen to the Muslims in the world rather than embarking in a crusade against them? If we had listened we might have understood how they see things and then related to them interacted differently. Like the Wall through Gaza, we can psychologically build walls that keep others at a distance or out of our lives. Walls divide us but do not protect us. Walls are broken down by listening to those on the ‘otherside’. Getting close enough to see, hear, touch, smell and taste the reality of others makes the difference. By listening to the stories of those different from us, we find similar but unexpressed voices within us. Listening to another’s story is the beginning of a new understanding and the beginning of compassionate action. People who have been blatantly racist, prejudiced, homophobic have allowed walls to be broken down when they get to know another whom they have dismissed: an Aboriginal person, a Muslim person, a gay person, a drug addict. They have found that there is another story and another reality.

We need to attend to the voice of the nameless, the outsider, the refugee and the ‘other’. If one theme is calling to us is that of welcoming of the stranger. There is much to do in discovering and learning from the variety of cultural gifts within our nation. We can grow together as Jesus allowed himself to be open and changed in his view through the stranger, the Gentile woman.

We meet ‘possibilities we have never dared to dream’ of when God is allowed to speak to us through strangers especially those vulnerable strangers within Australia today are made up of asylum seekers and refugees (terrorist, Muslim, dog) We can engage with the other by sharing stories that transform our hearts and enable us to see things differently. In the gospel story, through dialogue and the sharing of stories and perspectives led into a transformative healing experience for herself, for her child, and for Jesus. The call to follow Jesus demands that we go beyond labels and stereotypes to recognise that each one of us is a child of God. An the tipping point for us is where orthopraxis (correct action) overrules orthodoxy (correct doctrine).

A brave and faithful woman challenges Jesus, and he discovers, and we discover too, that it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Canaanite from Tyre or Sidon or anywhere else. All those boundaries and barriers we make so much of: ethnicity, class, nationality, upbringing—so many barriers, so many divisions—none of them matter.  What matters is the person before God—every single person.  The 'dividing wall of hostility' is broken down in Christ.

20th sunday