10th Sunday of Matt. (Matt. 17:14-23)
The Disciples Lack Faith
(Parallels Mk. 9:14-29; Lk 9:37-42)
"Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water."
**Father of the epileptic expresses his desperate need (kneeling before Him) and his unworthiness before Christ – he entreats the lord with the same prayer we heard last week – the shortest of all prayers and that which we hear time and again in the liturgy "Lord, have mercy", "Meshiro, o Zot" – perhaps the most powerful prayer, perhaps the only one necessary in times of need.
The man tells Jesus:
"...And I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not heal him."
**Keep in mind that sickness, especially epilepsy is often associated with demonic activity in scripture. And yet from this passage we learn that the disciples have no power over Satan, to heal the man's son.
And Jesus answered, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me." And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly.
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?"
**Jesus admonishes his disciples' powerlessness and their participation with the faithless and perverse (Deut. 32:5). Nothing can withstand Jesus' power, for He is the Lord of all. To everyone in need He says, Bring him here to Me! Again look at the simplicity of the directives, it is in no way complicated.
The only way is for the sick and the suffering to be led to Christ. And in his rebuke, the Lord, as He so often does in scripture, established his ties to the Old Testament, and himself as the fulfillment of the Old Testament: in this case (Deut. 32:5)
(Deut. 32:5) They have corrupted themselves; their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation
The Lord goes on to say in the Passage:
He said to them, "Because of your little faith. For truly I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move hence to yonder place,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting."
**to exercise demons requires sincere faith combined with prayer and fasting – the metaphor of a mustard seed (very small), indicates the power of "sincere" faith – and is not an understatement of the amount of sincere faith required – and yet the metaphor of the mountain is not an overstatement – for the power of faith in the Lord cannot be overstated. To reflect on prayer and fasting after the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, when we fast, but also pray for her intercession is appropriate.
Faith is a gift of God, either
(1) An acceptance of the truth, which benefits our soul greatly – the ability to go beyond the physical senses, which we tend to rely on and trust by default, to believe in what we receive no immediate confirmation of, and have no means to validate in advance or
(2) A special gift bestowed by Christ which effects things beyond mans' power.
We can pray also for God to help us with our faith; we can pray for the opportunity for submission to the Lord, and a moment of humility. For in faith, we find the supreme virtue of humility – acknowledging that the Lord is the source of all power, and we are not.
e.g. the lord out of Faith in the Father's plan, suffered his extreme humility on the cross – here is the archetype of the interplay between faith and humility.
Faith is also always both a belief and a trust. One cannot genuinely exist without the other.
For example, can we say; "...I believe in the power of the lord to heal the sick and the suffering, and I mostly trust Him" ?
The final passage from today's reading:
As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day."
It is fitting that at this moment, Jesus predicts His death and Resurrection for the second time (Mk. 9:30-32) it is important to recognize that the Son of Man is not led by compulsion, but rather faith and trust in the plan of the Father. He is going to the Passion willingly, so that "...by the grace of God, He might taste death for everyone"
(Heb. 2:9) But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
And yet we learn in the parallel Gospel passage (Mk. 9:30-32) that "...they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask Him..." Perhaps this is because:
a) They were aware of their own dullness, or
b) Perhaps they did not want to face the fact of His imminent death, and its implications for their limited faith and understanding.
Was He not going to taste death for the healing of Mankind, that those who believe in Him might avoid the sting of death and live instead in eternal life (in the resting place of the blessed as it were).
There is a connection here, Jesus is imploring the disciples to pray and fast that they may have the sincere faith required to cast out demons and heal the sick and the suffering, immediately after this rebukes he points out that none other than the Son of God himself, will submit to the will of the Father in Trust and in Faith (his prayer in the garden, just before the crucifixion, if there is any other way... but concluding "thy will be done...") – the Lord's rebuke might seem harsh, but He is a loving God, and he is saying "look at me", his words are difficult, because of our own lack of understanding, (as the disciples) - he wants His disciples to bring others to Him "Bring him here to me" bring him here to me, the one who will suffer and taste death for you, so that you do not have to..."