Glory to Jesus Christ!
Why are you here? What are you looking for?
In the Gospel today we hear of a father bringing his possessed son unto the Lord. You’re going to look far and wide for a more sincere and more deeply felt motivation than that of a parent who is seeking to help his or her child. And this father recounts that under the influence of the possessing demon, his son sometimes throws himself into fire, and sometimes into water and causes all manner of chaos and suffering for his afflicted son. And the father relates that he had previously brought his son to the Lord’s disciples, but they could not cast the demon out.
In recent weeks, we saw the Lord perform the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. And in this, He used His apostles as His instruments in the miracle, since the apostles were the ones who both brought forth and distributed the loaves and the fishes. It was through their service that the Lord wrought the miracle itself. But in the Gospel this week, we hear of the same disciples being unable to cast out a demon.
Then, as the Gospel says, our Lord declared:
O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? Bring him hither to Me. And Jesus rebuked him, and the devil went out of him, and the child was cured from that hour.
Once again, we see that by one word from Him Who is the Word, the situation is resolved.
Then came the disciples to Jesus secretly, and said: Why could not we cast him out? Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief.
Even having just seen and having participated in a great miracle such as we heard in recent weeks; even having been explicitly given the grace and the power over unclean spirits, still the disciples suffered from unbelief. The disciples did not believe that they could cast out the demon; they doubted that the possessed boy could be healed, even though they had, in fact, already healed many others. Therefore, when the father brought his son to them to expel the demon, they met with no success.
Remember that lesson from previous weeks? The necessity of faith for the Lord to work the cures which He had done? Remember how He saw the faith of the paralytic man, and how He said: According to thy faith be it done unto thee? Remember how he asked the blind men who were following Him and calling out: Do you believe that I can do this unto you?
Our Lord says:
Amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain: Remove from hence hither, and it shall remove, and nothing shall be impossible to you.
Faith is needed for miracles to be worked. And such a faith is born of boldness before God. Boldness – not a brashness, not presumption, and certainly not hubris – but boldness. Such a boldness is cultivated only by pleasing God and living according to His will.
Great honesty – especially with ourselves -, selflessness, and genuine abandonment to the will of God are needed to acquire such boldness before Him.
And in the end, concerning the demon cast out, the Lord concludes by saying:
But this kind is not cast out, but by prayer and fasting.
Fasting greatly supports and strengthens prayer. When the body is strong and the mind acts in stillness, then prayer becomes more powerful than anything. For this reason these two virtues ought always to be joined together. If one is a slave to one’s appetites – an exceptionally easy slavery to fall into – it makes it extremely difficult for us to be selfless in the work of grace as we ought to be.
And do we not see around us the frenzied and directionless acts, just like the poor boy in today’s Gospel? One moment he throws himself into fire, another into water. We can see the same fruitless action all around us – opposing ideologies, fire and water, yet in the end they both serve only the purpose of harming the individual. Simply because the methods of destruction are seemingly opposed to each other does not mean that they are not directed by the same enemy. Simply because you have two opposing sides doesn’t mean they’re not funded by the same source.
We see that everywhere. Whether under the banner of secular politics, or under the color of spirituality. Conservatism – progressivism. Left – right. Modernism – traditionalism. Fire – water. Without the grace of God, all of these can lead to destruction. And this kind is not cast out, but by prayer and fasting.
Prayer and fasting. Not talking and debating. Not studying and citation. Not by inquiry and figuring things out. And certainly not by videos or livestreams. For we walk by faith and not by sight. And faith – as we’ve seen – is necessary for healing. Faith, and prayer, and fasting.
So let us be faithful in prayer and fasting, so as to drive far away the passions and the intrusive thoughts which trouble us. The Christian who fasts is lightened in his or her spirit; he or she prays with a deep sobriety; his or her heart is filled with purity and genuine love.
Let us not be fascinated by passing fancies or thrown about – now into the fire, now into the water. But let us set our hearts upon the unchanging and the eternal. This is how we can obtain deliverance in the here and now, and how we can obtain the blessings of the Lord in hereafter.