When Jesus, Peter, James, and John approached the other disciples, they saw a large crowd surrounding them and legal experts arguing with them. Suddenly the whole crowd caught sight of Jesus. They ran to greet him, overcome with excitement. Jesus asked them, “What are you arguing about?”
Someone from the crowd responded, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, since he has a spirit that doesn’t allow him to speak. Wherever it overpowers him, it throws him into a fit. He foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and stiffens up. So I spoke to your disciples to see if they could throw it out, but they couldn’t.”
Jesus answered them, “You faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I put up with you? Bring him to me.”
They brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a fit. He fell on the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been going on?”
He said, “Since he was a child. It has often thrown him into a fire or into water trying to kill him. If you can do anything, help us! Show us compassion!”
Jesus said to him, “‘If you can do anything’? All things are possible for the one who has faith.”
At that the boy’s father cried out, “I have faith; help my lack of faith!”
Noticing that the crowd had surged together, Jesus spoke harshly to the unclean spirit, “Mute and deaf spirit, I command you to come out of him and never enter him again.” After screaming and shaking the boy horribly, the spirit came out. The boy seemed to be dead; in fact, several people said that he had died. But Jesus took his hand, lifted him up, and he arose.
After Jesus went into a house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we throw this spirit out?”
Jesus answered, “Throwing this kind of spirit out requires prayer.”
“Help my lack of faith.” I bet a lot of us have said that. I know I have. I think this is where community is so important. My faith is just that - mine. It can grow when I’m by myself. But when I’m in community, when I bounce ideas and ways of seeing off others, my faith grows exponentially.
Also, there are different situations that require deeper faith. Our current, “everyday” faith, if you will, sometimes won’t make it when we’re being tested or tempted. We may feel our faith is very strong, until the test comes. Then, like the man in our story, we realize that we have a “lack of faith.” That it’s not deep enough.
The fact that this was self-realized in key, I think. Jesus didn’t judge the man’s faith. He simply made a statement about faith and the man judged himself. Too often other’s judge our faith (or lack thereof). “If you really had faith, your child wouldn’t be sick.” “If you had ‘faith like a mustard seed’ you wouldn’t be in this financial mess.” All these types of assessments do is hardens our hearts and move us further away from Christ. But when we are confronted with the limits of our faith, and recognize and judge it for ourselves, true growth happens.
This is what we see from the disciples inquiry. They couldn’t understand why they weren’t able to throw out the spirit. Jesus’ response tells us that, in some situations, our “everyday” faith isn’t enough. We have to be prepared for whatever comes our way. And, sometimes, those confrontations require more of us. It requires lives of prayer and meditation. And, sometimes, it even requires fasting, like the old texts said here.
The idea I get from this is that faith is moving. It can’t stay stagnate. We have to spend time in daily practices that include prayer and other disciplines. These are the tools that help our faith grow. When we only pray on Sunday morning, or when tough times come, then we aren’t prepared. Again, this is why community is so important. It’s during those times, that others can add to our faith.
I remember a story about a lady that came to a parish. She was going through confirmation classes, I believe. But then, when it came time to make that final commitment, she couldn’t follow through with it.
One day the rector called her into his office and asked about her situation. She said that she just didn’t know if she could believe all of it. Oh, there were parts that she could grasp, but a lot of it left her scratching her head. She didn’t want to blindly accept things she wasn’t ready for yet. The rectors response was priceless, “What if we believed for you? What if we walk with you and carry you when you can’t go any further?” I don’t know if she was ever confirmed, but the faith of the community sustained and helped her along through many tough times.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC