Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 20, 2017

August 20, 2017


August 20, 2017

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dr. C. Vanessa

Dr. C. Vanessa



I’m Gonna Do What the Spirit Say Do. . . I’m Gonna Do What the Spirit Say Do . . . When the Spirit Say Do, I’m Gonna Do Oh Lord . . . I’m Gonna Do What the Spirit Say Do. . . (African American Spiritual)

 How many times do we talk ourselves out of doing something because of doubt and fear or of lack of confidence or a hardening of the heart?   

Several years ago, as a young adult in the Church who directed a Catholic lay volunteer service program, I discerned the need to go back to school to pursue my degree in theology and ministry.  At that time, I did not have the necessary funds for graduate school and doubted that I would be able to pursue my call.  It was during this time, I encountered someone who would change my life.  She was Adrian Dominican Sr. Jamie Phelps.  I shared with her my dilemma and she told me to ask my employers for the money.  I remember feeling that I couldn’t do it, for they had in fact been so generous with me in the past and even if I did ask, I feared that they would most likely say no.   

She stated that that was one scenario, but at the same time, she reminded me that by not taking any action, I was in fact remaining in the same situation I was currently in, and if I did choose to ask for the funds, that one of two things could happen. My employers could either say no and my situation remained the same or they could say yes and a new world would open for me.  


Now, what was I willing to do? I left Sr. Jamie and went home to reflect and pray. The next day, moved in spirit and in faith, I requested the funds for my education and my employers said YES!  They not only paid for my tuition, but my books as well. I had decided to “DO WHAT THE SPIRIT SAY DO.”  

 When the Spirit Say Do, I’m Gonna, Do Oh Lord, I’m Gonna Do What the Spirit Say Do. 

I am reminded of this song and my experience when I reflect on the encounter between the Canaanite Women and Jesus. I LOVE THIS STORY! 

Just take a moment and imagine this scenario from the Gospel of Matthew.  Think about the boldness of this woman, to go to Jesus . . . a male, a Jew, a rabbi and she a Canaanite, a woman and a mother. . . and boldly request that Jesus heal her daughter.  Just imagine all those around her, who probably told her that this was not a good idea.  Remember it was also the disciples who told Jesus to send her away.  She was considered an outcast, no better than a dog.  Who was she to ask for help?  But the love for her daughter moved her beyond her fear and doubt to take action.  Perfect love casts out all fear.  She also knew what the Spirit had called her to do. It was that Spirit of Boldness within her that propelled her to action and moved Jesus to respond in compassion.  On that day, her daughter was healed. 

When the Spirit Say Do, I’m Gonna Do Oh Lord, I’m Gonna Do What the Spirit Say Do. 

It is that Spirit of Boldness, that Spirit of Action that is needed today.  All around us, there are situations and persons in need of Jesus’ healing touch. These are times where we demonize those persons who share different views or come from different religious or ethnic traditions; where we have become desensitized to the pain experienced by our global brothers and sisters; and where those who are sick in mind, body and spirit are crying out to be healed.  

During these times, we are called to be instruments of God’s healing touch.  But to respond in spirit and truth, we must be committed to take the time to be open to that Sweet Holy Spirit . . .that spirit of healing and transformation that guides us and can soften a heart of stone, that builds bridges not walls, that helps to change systems of oppression and hatred and that propels a person to speak truth to power.  

So on this day, are you willing to “do what the Spirit Say Do”

When the Spirit Say Do, I’m Gonna, Do Oh Lord, I’m Gonna Do What the Spirit Say Do.

First Reading

Is 56:1, 6-7


Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8

Second Reading

Rom 11:13-15, 29-32


Mt 15:21-28
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Dr. C. Vanessa White

Dr. C. Vanessa White

Dr. C. Vanessa White is Associate Professor of Spirituality and Ministry  as well as the Director of the Certificate in Black Theology and Ministry at Catholic Theological Union.  She received her Doctor of Ministry and Master of Theological Studies degrees from Catholic Theological Union, with additional post-graduate work at Xavier University of Louisiana and Loyola University Chicago.  She is also a member of the faculty for Xavier University’s Summer Institute for Black Catholic Studies in New Orleans where she teaches in both the Master’s degree and Continuing Education and Enrichment Program.  

She is co-editor of the book (with Dr. Cecilia Moore and Fr. Paul Marshall, SM), Songs of the Heart and Meditations of the Soul – A book of prayers published by St. Anthony Messenger Press, and  contributing author for the books  Amoris Laetitia: A New Momentum for Moral Formation and Pastoral Practice published by Paulist Press  and Religion, Women of Color and the Suffrage Movement published by Lexington books.  She has published articles and essays in the Concillum: the International Journal of Theology, Horizons: Journal for the College Theology Society, The Bible Today, America and U.S. Catholic Magazine. She was asked by CNN News to contribute to their “Black in America” series with an op - piece that can be found online at entitled “Authentically Black and Truly Catholic”.   She is a regular contributor to Give Us This Day – daily prayer journal published by Liturgical Press.

She is Past Convener of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium, a theological association of Black Catholic theologians and scholars as well as a member of the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality and the Catholic Theological Society of America. A professed Secular Franciscan Vanessa works with Bishop Joseph N. Perry (postulator for the cause) in promoting the cause of Venerable Fr. Augustus Tolton and is featured in a new documentary on the life and letters of Fr. Augustus Tolton.

In 2022, she became the first lay woman to preach the nine-day novena in honor of St. Jude at the National Shrine to St. Jude in Chicago, IL.



The second of three volumes from the Catholic Women Preach project of FutureChurch offers homilies for each Sunday and holy days of the liturgical year by Catholic women from around the world.  The first volume for Cycle A received awards for best book on Liturgy from both the Association of Catholic Publishers and the Catholic Media Association.

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