By Katie Ascough - 21 August, 2020
Pope Francis recites the Angelus prayer in St Peter’s Square every Sunday at midday. He also gives a brief reflection on the Gospel of the day and often comments on some issue of international concern. The pope’s words are broadcast all over the world on radio and television and widely shared on social media.
This previous Sunday, Pope Francis reflected on a particularly touching Gospel: the story of the Canaanite woman who persistently begs Jesus to heal her sick daughter. Jesus seems to deny her request, but, after a few attempts, he exclaims to her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish” (Matthew 15:28).
“Have mercy on me, Lord” is the cry from a mother who feels helpless, a “cry that is born out of a life marked by suffering”, Pope Francis said. The mother insists, even after Jesus says his mission “is directed only to ‘the lost sheep of the house of Israel’”.
At this point, Pope Francis said that Jesus “puts her to the test, citing a proverb: It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” Her response, said the pope, shows that the woman senses the Most High God present in Jesus: “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” That trust-filled wisdom “touches the Master’s heart”, provoking Him to admire her faith with the words, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”
Pope Francis then reflected on “what type of faith is great”. Our faith is great when we bring our wounded past to Jesus’ feet, “asking Him to heal it, to give it meaning”. Each one of us, the pope continues, has our own story, a story that is often difficult, filled with pain, misfortunes and sins. “What do I do with my story?” he asked. “Do I hide it?” No, the pope said; instead, “We must bring it to the Lord” with the prayer “Lord, if You will it, You can heal me.”
This is what the woman in Sunday’s Gospel teaches us, the pope said, inviting everyone to consider their own life story and to make the Canaanite woman’s prayer their own. “Let us go to Jesus, knock on Jesus’ heart, and say to Him, ‘Lord, if You will it, You can heal me.’”
We will be able to do this, the pope continued, “if we always have the face of Jesus before us”. Pope Francis insisted that Jesus loves us “as we are, without make-up”, with a love and compassion “that bears our sins, our mistakes and our failures”.
The Holy Father once again invited everyone to carry a copy of the Gospels with them, in their pocket or purse, or even on their phone – because it is there, in the Gospels, “that you will find Jesus as He is, as He presents Himself … You will find Jesus who loves us, who loves us a lot, who tremendously wants our well-being.”
Pope Francis concluded his reflection by praying that the Blessed Virgin Mary “might intercede with her prayer so that the joy of faith and the desire to communicate it with the witness of a consistent life might grow in every baptised person”, and that we might be given the courage to draw near to Jesus and pray, “Lord, if You will it, You can heal me.”
To listen to the Pope’s entire reflection on 16 August 2020, click here.