How to pray

In the Gospel of the Mass, St. Matthew tells us that Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the region of Tyre and Sidon. He went from the shore of the Sea of Galilee to the shore of the Mediterranean. There a Gentile woman came to him, belonging to the ancient people of Palestine - the country of Canaan - where the Israelites settled. And she cried out to him, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me, for my daughter is cruelly tormented by the devil!

The Evangelist reports that Jesus, in spite of the woman's cries, did not say a word in reply. This first encounter took place, according to St. Mark, in a house, and there the woman prostrated herself at his feet. The Lord, apparently, did not pay the slightest attention to her.

Afterwards, Jesus and his companions must have left the house, for St. Matthew writes that the disciples came to him and said: Attend to her so that she may go away, for she is shouting after us. The woman perseveres in her cry, but Jesus limits himself to tell her: I have not been sent except to the lost sheep of Israel. This mother, however, did not give up: she came and prostrated herself before Him saying: Lord, help me, what faith, what humility, what great interest in her request!

Jesus explained to her by means of an image that the Kingdom had to be preached first of all to the children, to those who made up the chosen people: "It is not right," he said to her, "to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs. But the woman, with deep humility, with boundless faith, with unwavering constancy, did not back down: "It is true, Lord," she replied, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the tables of their masters. She enters into the parable, conquers the Heart of Christ, provokes one of the greatest praises of the Lord and the miracle she asked for: O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done as you wish. And her daughter was healed in that instant. It was the reward for her perseverance.

The good mothers in the Gospel always show concern for their children. They know how to turn to Jesus for help and gifts. Once it was the mother of James and John who approached the Lord to ask him to reserve a good place for her sons. Another time it will be the widow of Nain who cries after her dead son and obtains from Christ, perhaps with a glance, to give him back to her alive? The woman presented to us in today's Gospel is the perfect model of constancy to be meditated upon by those who soon tire of asking.

St. Augustine tells us in his Confessions how his mother, St. Monica, saintly concerned about the conversion of her son, never ceased to weep and pray to God for him; nor did she cease to ask good and wise people to speak to him so that he would abandon his errors. One day, a good bishop said to her these words, which consoled her so much: "Go in peace, woman, for it is impossible for the son of so many tears to be lost". Later, St. Augustine himself will say: "If I did not perish in error, it was because of my mother's daily tears full of faith".

God hears in a special way the prayer of those who know how to love; even if at times it seems that he is silent. He waits for our faith to become firmer, our hope greater, our love more confident. He wants from all of us a more fervent desire - like that of good mothers - and a greater humility.