This weekend is a special time for us here at St. Joseph. As we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother, we also pause to celebrate the life of our First Lady and my mother, Mrs. Joyce Brown. Due to the Corona Virus Pandemic, we were unable to celebrate here life as a parish community to bring closure for all of us who mourn her loss. The words of Jesus ring true to my mother, “Oh woman how great is your faith.” In reflecting on the life and legacy of Joyce Brown her great love fueled by faith effected every one she encountered.
This exclamation by Jesus is done having witnessed the tenacity and persistence of the Canaanite woman. She approaches Jesus on behalf of her daughter and she does so expecting to be heard. This mother of faith, this tenacious woman wasn’t taking no for an answer. She persisted because the life of her daughter was dependent upon Jesus and His ability to heal and restore her.
This unshakable faith is characteristic of Joyce Brown, a women with much love and greater faith and she was proud of the fruits of that faith. With her loving husband, Frederick, from whom she witnessed the greatness of the Catholic faith, together made prayer and faith central to the life of the Brown family. I can still remember how she gathered us early in the morning to receive Dad’s blessing as he stood at the top of the steps. He prayed over his wife and children before heading out to the Cleveland Clinic. This was where the faith was lived, shared and grew. “Oh women how great is your faith.”
Images of our mother praying over the oven as she baked bread, or praying with hands held as I would leave for ministry at the university. I can still see this women of great faith, my mother at prayer, whether it be the daily rosary or up early to pray the Divine Office, oh how great was her faith. My thoughts turn to the book of the Apostles James who writes in his 5th chapter verse 16, “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” That is the prayer of the righteous availeth much meaning that it does something awesome and wonderful.
When the Canaanite women went before Jesus, she expected something, she wasn’t going to be shaken from her task in getting her child the healing that she needed. When my mother went to prayer she too was expectant that God would work all things out for the good. Even as she prayed me through the seminary, as well as praying both my father and brother through the deaconate, she celebrated the great strength of her faith and she was proud. Seeing her praying her daughters through college, medical school and doctoral programs. I can still hear her bragging about having three Reverends and three Doctors in her family. This is a true testimony of faith, not many families have doctors and ordained ministers and it is all from that great faith that was lived in our home. Knowing that God would bring about something great for God’s glory not for our own. She understood that her prayer was always heard by the God who loved her and called her home.
In the Gospel today it is out of love for her daughter that the woman finds herself at the feet of Jesus. It is out of her desperation that when initially told, ” do not give the food of children to the dogs” the woman’s wit reminds Jesus that “even the dogs eat the scraps from the table.” You see what she is actually doing is claiming and declaring her dignity as a women, as a human being created good by God who created all for good. And the divine goodness is extended to this women and to her daughter in the healing that Jesus ultimately puts forth.
This weekend we honor and celebrate the reward of our Blessed Mother in the Feast of the Assumption. Because of her faithfulness to God in serving as the New Eve, The Ark of the New Covenant, the spouse of the Holy Spirit, and the mother of the Savior and Redeemer, God did not leave her, rather he brought her unto himself and raised her to a special place prepared for her beside her Son as Queen of Heaven and Earth.
It is our sure and certain hope that God too in His loving mercy sees in the faith of Joyce Louise Burton- Brown, great faith. And as he said to the women in the Gospel so to he says to our mother “Oh women great is your faith, let it be done as you wish.”