“O Lord, I believe; Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9: 24), prays the man in today’s Gospel who had asked Jesus to heal his son possessed by a demon. The Apostles, too, ask Jesus to help their unbelief “Lord, Increase our faith.” (Luke 17:5)
To both Jesus responds that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed (about half the size of a poppy seed) you can accomplish miraculous results with only a word, even moving mountains or pulling a huge tree out by its roots and tossing it into the sea. It might seem normal for people today to doubt that this is/was possible,: however, the people at that time had witnessed even greater miracles themselves, the blind having their sight restored, the lame walking, and many others including today’s Gospel account of demons being expelled. So it might be expected that these marvels and Jesus’ promise of the power to perform them to those with faith, would inspire all to great faith, but in the next chapter of St Luke’s Gospel, Jesus wonders “when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8), and declares “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?” when He is told that His disciples could not drive the demon out of the boy.
Man has always believed that there was something else (i.e., spirits) beside himself and the visible in the world, and generally divided the spirits into good ones and bad ones. Over time man has ascribed greater power to the evil ones; deifying them, building temples to them, looking to them for help in all things, fearing their wrath, bringing them sacrifices and prayers. It is shown today in the many pagan cults thriving thorough out the world, and we see this at the time of Christ, when Christ’s great power was attributed to Satan, “He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons.” (Matthew 9:34 also in Luke and Mark). Jesus came to show us that the opposite is true.
In today’s reading, the possessed boy’s father points out the disciple’s lack of power to Jesus. “I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.” He also exposes his own contribution (lack of faith) to the disciple’s failure when he says to Jesus “if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus doesn’t put the blame specifically on anyone (“O faithless generation”). Even those in the crowd are accused of the lack of faith (for Jesus acknowledged the faith of the four who lowered the paralytic to Him as the reason of his cure).
How would we have reacted if this was our child? What kind of faith would Christ find in each us if He would appear today? What evidence of faith would He see in our everyday actions? Would He see us trying to deal with everything, both the blessings and that which require us to show patience and humility, with the faith that God has sent them to us for our own benefit – “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:71)? Do we have the faith to act according to His will? Do we act as though this world is only a passing phase and that His obedience (and therefore ours too) to the Father, even to death on the cross is the source of eternal life? Do we ask Him in prayer to strengthen our faith and use it in all our decisions and judgments?
As we continue our Lenten journey, let us focus our efforts on increasing our faith to the size of a mustard seed keeping in mind the words of Jesus “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
Let us accept Christ’s power as supreme in our lives and allow Him to take the spirit of despair from us.