20th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Gospel – Matthew 15:21-28
While last Sunday’s Gospel cautioned us that we can sink through a lack of faith, this Sunday’s Gospel emboldens us with an example of great faith in action.
The Canaanite woman doesn’t become discouraged by Jesus’ initial refusals to hear her. Jesus, marveling at her faith, answers her prayer by healing her daughter. Through this delay, He teaches us the value of persisting in prayer, as Pope Benedict XVI has explained:
Her insistence in imploring Christ’s intervention is an encouragement to us never to lose heart and not to despair, even in the harshest trials of life. The Lord does not close His eyes to the needs of His children, and if He seems at times insensitive to their requests, it is only in order to test them and to temper their faith. This is the witness of saints; this is especially the witness of martyrs.
Jesus’ silence may seem disconcerting, to the point that it prompted the disciples to intervene, but it was not a question of insensitivity to this woman’s sorrow. St Augustine rightly commented: “Christ showed Himself indifferent to her, not in order to refuse her His mercy but rather to inflame her desire for it” (Sermo 77, 1: PL 38, 483).
…Dear friends, we too are called to grow in faith, to open ourselves in order to welcome God’s gift freely, to have trust and also to cry to Jesus “give us faith, help us to find the way!”
We must not give way to feelings of “failure in prayer,” whether through disappointment, distractions, or lack of spiritual consolations, and we should never stop praying because we imagine that God’s not listening (Catechism paragraphs 2728-34). In fact, we are being called to a deeper trust: “filial trust is tested – it proves itself – in tribulation” (2734).
In the words of the fourth-century theologian Evagrius Ponticus,
Do not be troubled if you do not immediately receive from God what you ask Him; for He desires to do something even greater for you, while you cling to Him in prayer.
–quoted in 2737.
Question for reflection: How do I work through difficulties in my own prayer life?