Has God Ever Surprised You? How? ~ Gospel Reflection & Spiritual Exercise

Three Points on God's Surprises to Consider from Isaiah 56 and the Encounter with the Canaanite Woman

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In today’s Gospel reflection, Father Ian VanHeusen presents a spiritual exercise based on the readings for Sunday’s Mass.

St. Ignatius of Loyola explains, “By the term “Spiritual Exercises” is meant every method of examination of conscience, of meditation, of contemplation, of vocal and mental prayer, and of other spiritual activities.


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“For just as taking a walk, journeying on foot, and running are bodily exercises, so we call Spiritual Exercises every way of preparing and disposing the soul to rid itself of all inordinate attachments, and, after their removal, of seeking and finding the will of God in the disposition of our life for the salvation of our soul.”

This week, we invite you to watch the video, then prayerfully read the readings below for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, and finally go through Father VanHeusen’s spiritual exercise.


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A reading from the book of Isaiah (56:1-1, 56:6-7)

Thus says the LORD: Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed.

Has God worked through some unexpected person or circumstance? What did you learn from that?

The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ministering to him, loving the name of the LORD, and becoming his servants — all who keep the sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

The word of the Lord.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (15:21-28)

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 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.”

But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. Jesus’ disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”

Canaanites were foreigners who often persecuted the Jewish people. Have you ever seen faith in a non- believer? Have you been surprised by someone who does not know the Lord but yet shows great virtue? What did you learn in those situations?

Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

The Gospel of the Lord

Spiritual exercise:

1) Name a situation in the past few months were your perceptions have been challenged or stretched. What did you learn? Have a conversation with Jesus about that.

2) God often works through imperfect instruments. Is there someone in your life that you have dismissed that maybe you need to reconsider? Pray for the grace to discover Christ working in those you disagree with or find difficult.

3) “Fill in” the story of the Canaanite woman. How do you imagine her life before Jesus? What might have been her relationship with the Jews in her community? What is her life like after Jesus? Keep in mind, that in this time period, there was often great hostility between Jews and non-Jews. Can you connect this with any circumstances in your family or community today?


If you would like to print out these questions, we have prepared a downloadable handout version of this Spiritual Exercise. Click the download button bellow.

About Fr. Ian Van Heusen

Fr. Ian Van Heusen has written 33 post in this blog.

Fr. Ian is a Catholic Priest of the Diocese of Raleigh, NC. He is assigned to St. Bernadette Catholic Church as a Parochial Vicar, and he writes on prayer and meditation at www.ianvanheusen.com.

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