The “Sticking Point” of Faith
Monday: Seventh week of the Year: May 16, 2016
(Begin Ordinary Time)
The reflections on Mark’s Gospel are continued from the Sixth Week. See the previous reflections for the time after Christmas, Weeks 1-6 of Ordinary Time.
Mark 9:14-29. Year I: Sirach 1:1-10; Psalm 93:1-5; Year II: James 3:13-18; Psalm 19:8-15.
When they came down the mountain after the Transfiguration, the disciples got a shock. A man ran up and said, “Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a demon. I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.”
Jesus had given the disciples power to heal and cast out demons (3:15). But they had failed! This put a strain on the disciples’ faith. The magic wasn’t working anymore!
Then Jesus “lost it”: “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me!”
The father did, saying, “If you can do anything… help us.”
Jesus didn’t like that. “What do you mean, ‘If you can…?’ Everything is possible for anyone who has faith.”
The father answered for us all: “I do have faith; help my lack of faith.” And Jesus cast out the demon.
Now that Jesus is preaching a tougher Gospel, Mark is showing us a tougher kind of demon. To believe in accepting the cross instead of taking up the sword requires more than ordinary faith. Its absence through most centuries of Christianity explains why Jesus’ disciples in the Church have not been able to exorcise society of the demons of violence and war, with all that precedes and follows them. We do have faith. But the world is still suffering from our lack of faith. We do, in fact, choose to save our lives in this world rather than lose them. We will kill others — even and especially if we think they are so evil we might be sending them to hell — rather than let them send us to heaven. We are not willing to respond to evil with love.
We will defend our “American way of life” to the death (doing our best, of course, to assure it will be others’ death rather than our own), rather than accept the yoke (that is, the cross) of domination by another nation or ideology. Don’t most Christians take this for granted?
And parents keep coming to the Church, saying, “I brought my children to Mass, to religious instruction, and asked you to protect them from the demons of our culture — from loss of faith, and from the peer pressure that often ‘casts them into fire and water’ — and you could not.”
True. A Church of mediocre disciples, whether clergy or laity — or of parents — who compromise with the culture, cannot save people from the demons of the culture itself. For this there is no remedy but to turn to God for help, acknowledging our weakness: “This kind can only be driven out by prayer.” And metanoia.
Initiative: Give God’s life: Go to the roots. Re-examine the basic mystery of Baptism and Mass.