A Little Faith and Lots of Prayers

Matthew 17: 14-20
Deut 6:4-13 / Ps 18:2-4,47,51

If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to that mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would obey you; and nothing would be impossible for you.
(Matthew 17: 20)

Believe nothing is impossible,
As long as we fervently pray;
With faith we “see” the invisible,
And improbable happen our way.

When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, knelt before Him and said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is epileptic and is very ill. He has often fallen into the fire and at other times into the water. I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.” And Jesus said in reply, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus commanded the evil spirit to leave the boy, and the boy was healed at once. Later, the disciples came to Jesus, and asked Him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive out the evil spirit?” And He said to them, “Because you have little faith. Truly, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to that mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would obey you; and nothing would be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17: 14-20)

Reflection

In the Gospel version of Mark, when the father of the boy possessed by an evil spirit told Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us,” our Lord replied, probably with a slight rebuke, “’If you can’? Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ”I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mk.9:22-24). But a stronger rebuke was directed to His companions: “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?” One can sense the frustration our Lord felt with the lack of faith He found in His apostles; after all, He had empowered them much earlier, sending the twelve to “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” (Mt.10:8).

So why couldn’t the apostles drive out an evil spirit this time around? It was simply because their faith had been weakened by their own self-importance, and possibly pride. After successfully casting out demons a few times, they had become complacent, and even presumptuous that God would back them up every time their services were needed. They had forgotten the most important item: to humbly call upon the Source of that power. In the version of St. Mark, when the apostles asked our Lord why they could not drive out the demon, He bluntly told them: “This kind can only come out through prayer.” Being God, Jesus knew that since they were not praying hard enough, their ‘delegated power’ vanished.

As Christians, we believe that everything comes from God. As we are fond of saying, we are merely His stewards. We have no power to accomplish miracles, only privileged to witness them, and even be used in their manifestation. However, we must have faith, even just a little, and pray fervently for God’s miracle to happen. A number of times we have witnessed the improbable happen, such as the colon cancer of a sister disappearing after our community bombarded heaven with prayers for her healing. This has given us so much hope. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) It is small wonder that Faith (or the word “believe”) is mentioned in the Bible more than five hundred times. The Word of God assures us that if only we believe, we will never “lose our life”. Abraham and all the patriarchs were favored by God because of their faith. All the apostles and the martyrs and saints who followed them were glorified by God because they were steadfast in faith. As St. Paul said, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Cor 15:58)

Dear Lord, help us to overcome our doubts whenever our prayers seem unanswered. Forgive us for doubting, and help us to accept those we cannot comprehend. Help us to trust in the power of faith; give us the grace to develop this gift, so that we may be able to perform the ministry You have laid out for us. Amen.

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