The 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – (20 August 2023)
Lectionary Readings: Isa. 56:1.6-7; Ps 67:2-3.5-6.8; Rom. 11: 13-15.29-32; Matt. 15:21-28
Theme: “The woman came and knelt before him
he Canaanite woman not only knelt before Jesus; she also compared herself to a dog getting under the table to eat crumbs. The story of Lazarus, longing to eat whatever fell from the rich man’s table (Lk 16:19-21) reminds us that there were people who, like dogs, had to get down on the floor in the hope of being fed. These scraps and crumbs were not charitable offerings; they had fallen from the mouths and hands of people who had plenty to eat. It Is a way of feeding the poor that is still with us, although now it may take other and more intentional forms, such as donating to a food bank, food that you have more of than your family can eat. There is also “dumpster diving”, that is, acquiring food items which grocery stores have discarded. While reading these verses of Matthew and Luke did bring to my mind the issue of food justice, they also made me think of something else- kneeling as an act of worship.
I was brought up in the Anglican Church and, as I once heard an Anglican bishop say: “When Anglicans hear the words ‘Let us pray’, they all flop to their knees.” (He was about to bless a new set of altar hangings, and he wanted us to remain upright so we could see the hangings as he prayed.) Not only did we spend a lot of time on our knees, we did so, on wooden kneelers. When a new church was built in the neighborhood with ‘cushioned’ kneelers, our parish was shocked by the very idea. We also received the Body and Blood of Christ while on our knees at the altar rail. As preparation for this we prayed the ‘Prayer of Humble Access”. This prayer had not been translated from earlier liturgies. It was the creation of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556). The first ‘Reformer’ to be Archbishop of Canterbury, he was burned at the stake during the reign of Mary Tudor. The prayer reminds us that we, despite our faults and failings, are about to receive a wonderful and unmerited gift. Here it is:
“We do not presume to come to this thy table, O merciful Lord,
trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies.
We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table.
But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy.
Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ,
and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body,
and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him and he in us. Amen.”
For Reflection and Discussion: Humility is one of the Seven Heavenly Virtues. In today’s world, we are encouraged to think highly of ourselves. How would you make the case for humility as a virtue?
Bibliography: The Anglican Book of Common Prayer has been revised several times over the centuries. Here is a link to the 1662 version: https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2019-10/the-book-of-common-prayer-1662.pdf
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Anne Morton, Canada, Bat Kol Alumna 2010