Prayer and Reflection by Archbishop Stephen Brislin

Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 5 August 2020, during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. It is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please also see below the text of his reflection, primarily for the deaf.

Welcome once again to my chapel, a place that is a source of strength and hope for me every time I come in here to pray. It is a place of rest, of calmness and peace. In our busy lives, filled with so many thoughts and uncertainties, we all need a sacred place where we can recollect ourselves and put ourselves in the presence of God. While our parishes are not yet functioning as normal, parishioners can go to the church at certain times during the day to pray. Perhaps you may consider doing that from time to time, simply to be with God in a special way.

In the Gospel of today’s Mass  (Matthew 15-21-28) we hear of the Canaanite woman who approached Jesus, calling him the Son of David, and asking him to heal her daughter who was severely possessed by a devil. The Lord did not initially respond to her and the disciples begged him to send her away. This is what happened next:

But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered , “it is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table. Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith!”

Let us pray:

Loving Father, strengthen our faith that we may never hesitate to call to you in our need ,with deep humility and trusting in your love for us. Grant us endurance when we face difficulties and anxieties, that we may not fail to believe in you, knowing that in the darkest hours you are with us always. We make this prayer through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever, amen.

The Canaanite woman is remarkable in her faith and perseverance. We do not know how she, as a Canaanite, knew of Jesus or what she had heard about him. But when she first calls to him she refers to him as “Son of David”, a messianic term, indicating that she recognized and accepted him as the Messiah. She does not give up on her request to Jesus, even when he initially ignores her and the disciples try to have her sent away. As she persists Jesus says that he was sent only for the lost sheep of Israel and so she kneels before him and utters the words from the depths of her heart, Lord, help me. Jesus still did not respond immediately to her request and gives a stunning reply, it is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. Her faith was certainly put the test, but her response to Jesus’ comment was also stunning and how easy it would have been for her to walk away hurt, or in anger or pride. But she does not. She answers Jesus, her faith in him still strong, saying simply that even the dogs can eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.  And so her daughter was healed instantly. 

This interaction between Jesus, as well as the woman’s faith and persistence, must have had a deep impact on the disciples which, in due course, would help take them out of a narrow, restricted understanding that Jesus, the Messiah, had come to save only the Jews, the chosen people. They eventually came to the realization and knowledge that he is the Messiah of all people. Peter, after the Resurrection and Ascension, when his active ministry of proclaiming the Gospel had begun, expressed this new understanding in these words,  “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.” (Acts 10:34,35)

The courage, commitment and humility of the Canaanite woman is lesson for us all. Her spirit was so strong that she would not be put off, she did not yield, yet at the same time she never gave into arrogance or a demanding anger. She made her sincere request that came from deep within herself as a cry for help. And she did so humbly. We too, especially now when our faith is being put to the test, need endurance and confidence in God’s love for us. Her faith and confidence in Jesus brought great reward – her daughter was healed. The words of the Book of Hebrews inspire us not to let go of our confidence in God so that we too may receive what we have been promised, “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. ” (Hebrews 10:35-36).

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you                                                  R/ And with your spirit

Graciously enlighten you family, O Lord, we pray, that by holding fast to what is pleasing to you, they may be worthy to accomplish all that is good. Through Christ Our Lord, amen.

May Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

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