Monday, February 21, 2011

Faith: Mark 9: 14-29

Today's gospel is the story of Jesus curing the possessed son of a man who had asked His Apostles to do the same but could not.  It is in this gospel that we witness the frustration of Jesus very clearly.  A little background is necessary.

The passages just prior to this gospel recalls the story of Jesus' Transfiguration.  He took Peter, James, and John to the top of a mountain to pray and while they were there, he became transfigured, appearing as dazzling as the sun and speaking with Moses and Elijah.  The three Apostles with Him were so awestruck that they fell to the ground in fear.  We can only imagine the glory of the vision and the breath-taking site of the Lord speaking with these long-dead prophets.  You would think that if there was anything that would seal their complete belief in Jesus as the Son of God it would have been this incident.  But no!

Today's gospel story is a continuation of the journey of Jesus and the Apostles down the mountain of Transfiguration.  Arriving at the base of the mountain, they find the rest of the disciples and a crowd.  There appears to be some sort of dispute going on.  Jesus asks what the matter is.  A man with a son who is mute steps forward to tell Jesus that His disciples could not cure his son.  It seems that no matter what they did, nothing was effective.  Jesus must have been beside Himself.  He had, up to this point, lived with the Apostles and disciples for quite some time.  Most had been present for all of His teachings.  They had been witness to several other miracles.  Still, even after all of these experiences, they were unable to cure this man's son.

Jesus' answer reflects His exasperation.  "O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you?  How long am  I to bear with you?"  (Mk 9: 19)  He then instructs the father to bring Him his son and subsequently cures the young man.

How does this event apply to our lives today?  We who are Christians now have centuries of evidence of Jesus as the Messiah.  We know more about God than the Apostles and disciples who followed Jesus could possibly have known because of the work and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  We have been witness to many things throughout history that speaks of the existence of God and His willingness and desire to intervene in our lives in order to help us.  Yet, could we do any better than the followers of Jesus spoken of in today's gospel?  Probably not!  Why?  Our lack of faith!

All that was required of the Apostles in order to cure the father's son was complete  belief in Jesus without any hint of doubt.  Had they possessed this quality, they most certainly would have been able to effect a cure for the young man.  As it was, Jesus, Himself, had to intervene because the Apostles had yet overcome their human and sinful tendencies that blocked their complete faith in the Lord.  So it is with us!

We often fall into the trap of feeling good about our faith.  We pray, go to church, treat others with kindness and consideration and believe that we have followed our Lord completely through all these gestures.  But how often do we begin to rely on ourselves for guidance for our actions and and the way we live.  How often do we act on human impulse while knowing at the same time that our impulse does not lead us on the path to God's will for us?  Do we really believe that if someone were to come to us asking for a miracle from us that we could do it because of our belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Messiah?

Faith is both difficult and easy.  We make it difficult by allowing our human tendencies to guide us without any reference to the Will of God.  We throw barriers in the way of faith, distracting us from what is so abjectly important in our lives: that of following the Father's Will.  It can be easy if we but override these same human tendencies and listen to the voice of God that speaks to us from within.  Do we really want Jesus to say to us as He once said to His Apostles, "How long must I bear with you?"