IN THOSE DAYS, someone from the crowd answered Jesus, "Teacher, I brought You my son. He has a spirit that makes him unable to speak, and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. And I asked Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so." And Jesus answered them, “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to Me.” And they brought the boy to Him. When the spirit saw Jesus, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And the father said, “From childhood. It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him. But if you are able to do anything, have mercy on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you are able! All things can be done for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I believe. Help my unbelief!”
When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You spirit that keeps this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!” After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and the boy was able to stand.
When He had entered the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” Jesus said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer and fasting.” They went on from there and passed through Galilee, but He did not want anyone to know it because He was teaching His disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and three days after being killed, He will rise again.”
What is faith?
Especially today, during these turbulent times of the pandemic. When is it easier to believe? When everything is going normal, if not easy then at least without catastrophic events? Or when there are persecutions and events that make our life extremely uneasy?
Hard to say, right? Well, one thing for sure, this pandemic will show what kind of faith we have. Is it a "lip service" kind of faith or does it have substance behind it? Let me be very careful and clear here, our faith will be revealed to us. What I am not saying is that we will be able to see the faith of others. Unstable times make us see where we stand with God. We know where God stands with us - He loves us, to the point of death. Again, these times do not show us, in any way, where others stand with God.
"I believe. Help my unbelief" is one of the more perplexing and paradoxical lines in the Bible. To be sure, there are a lot more, but this one is really interesting because it is about us. I do not about you, but that's how I would describe my faith life, I believe, yet, God, help my unbelief. If you can believe without a doubt, if your faith is strong and unchallenged, I am happy for you. Truly. You are blessed, you have a gift.
For the rest of us, what the father of the possessed boy confesses here is what we have. This kind of faith can also be described as hope. And hope is perfectly Christian way to describe even God. In fact, we call Him hope in more than a few hymns and prayers.
Coronavirus is also manifesting our human failings. There are people, both clergy and lay, who look down upon and condemn those who decided to follow the shutdown directives both from the church leadership and civil authorities. Just like those who decided to shutdown, condemn those who decided to keep their churches open and not change anything. In both cases, both groups accuse each other of lack of faith and of testing God.
It is good to have a firm faith. However, wherever you fall in the two groups, do not let yourself be rebuked for your faith, and do not reproach others for the supposed lack of faith. Use this time to figure out where you stand with God. If you came face to face with God today, would you be able to say, "My King and my God," or "I believe, but still, help my unbelief"?
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest