Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Sister Betsy Flynn, SNDdeN

Aug 16, 2023 | Gospel Reflections

August 20, 2023

Matthew 15: 21-28

The nameless daughter from the region of Tyre and Sidon suffers from the
torment of the devil. The frightening experience that the devil has taken possession of her daughter brings the desperate mother to plead with Jesus. She approaches and starts to shout at him with the greeting, “Sir, Son of David, have pity on me,” she implores. Initially Jesus is silent. The disciples not able to stand the shouting, ask Jesus to do something because the pleading of this mother is driving them crazy. Jesus responds to them that his mission is only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.

The woman hearing this, approaches him, kneels at his feet, “Lord,” she says, “help me.” He replies that it is not fair to take the children’s food and give it to dogs. Once again, she responds with respect, “that’s true, Sir, but even the pet dogs eat the bread crumbs from the master’s table.” There is silence. Jesus listens to the mother’s words. The mother touches Jesus so that he realizes that he is sent for all sheep. Then Jesus speaks to the woman. “Your wish is granted.” From that moment her daughter’s health is restored. Jesus praises her for her great faith. Imagine the relief, gratitude and joy of that mother.

Imagine the increased love and dependence on his Father that touches the heart of Jesus in the meeting with the Canaanite mother! At stake is a dramatic new development in ministry. Jesus’ mission is not only for Jews but for all people. This woman was alone and sought him out. She has no other markers or status. She is mother of a daughter possessed by the devil. When it seems Jesus rebukes her, comparing her with dogs, she responds slowly and quietly that the dogs are a special part of the master’s household. They are nourished by the crumbs despite their place not at, but under the table. The dogs are there, part of the family.

Imagine what the disciples learned from the faith of the Canaanite woman! One can just hear them as they remembered the radical change in Jesus’ attention to the woman. Like Jesus, they
were tired from the pressing crowds. Jesus ignored their advice to tell the woman to go away.
Both Matthew and Mark include this miracle in their narratives passed on for all to hear and heed. We are family and all are called to give life to one another in love. Most certainly they remembered this meeting when they were sent forth to spread the good news.



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.”
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.


Meet Sister Betsy Flynn, SNDdeN

Sr. Betsy Flynn lives in Julie House, Windsor, Connecticut. She is a member of the East West Province of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Sr. Betsy taught high school Spanish; and was a counselor to women seeking to further their education at Greater Hartford Community College. She participated in an ecumenical pastoral team consisting of one Hispanic pastor, two lawyers, one labor organizer, and Sister Betsy who taught English as a second language to the Jamaican workers in the tobacco fields outside of Hartford. This team brought the workers difficult working conditions to Court and won the right to three hot meals a day to sustain them in their work. In 1981, Sr. Betsy was missioned to Brasil where she served 34 years in the state of Ceará in the northeast. She lived on top of a mountain and walked the area with a team of lay men and women to animate the various communities spread all over the mountain area. They studied the Bible and their lives in three moments: Creation, Exodus, Jesus Christ. They communicated their reflections on the diocesan radio programs, at soccer games, at meetings of the women’s group called AGAR. The study, prayer, and communication created a strong community spirit in the diocese. The communities were able to secure their land from foreign opportunists who wished to take it from them to create tourist attractions. This struggle was not without the price of death. A father and his two sons were murdered from one community. In another, a farmer was killed while preparing to plant his land. Returning to the USA in 2015, prior to Covid, Sr. Betsy worked as a volunteer translator in Spanish and Portuguese with Malta, a health Van which gives quality health care for the poor in different sections of the city. She is a team member of the SND immigration project in McAllen, Texas and Matamoros, Mexico. She worked in Phoenix, Arizona with migrants on the way to their new home communities.