The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (17:14-23)
In today’s gospel reading we see a picture of faith, but it is not yet perfect faith. We see a picture of incomplete faith in the actions of the man on behalf of his son, who is possessed of a demon. At the outset we are quite impressed by this man’s demonstration of reverence and piety.
He comes before Our Lord Jesus Christ and kneels like a beggar without any regard for the crowds or how he might be perceived. He cries out “Lord, have mercy on my son,” In this he showed great faith. Would that we would all have this kind of love for others and this kind of boldness before the Lord!
He fell on his knees and called upon the Lord, out of love, not for himself, but for his son. However there was an issue, his faith was only a small faith and it was also not pure.
According to St. John Chrysostom, there were problems with his request. He says that this is the same man whose story is also told in Mark chapter 9, and in that chapter the father says “Help my unbelief.” He also goes on to say to the Lord please heal my son “if you can.”
This phrase “if you can” is a sign of his unbelief. So we see that this man, if it is indeed the same man, showed many signs of unbelief, yet he comes to the Lord and asks him to help but he doesn’t ask with purity of faith. He says“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.”
And then he continues “And I brought him to Thy disciples, and they could not heal him.” So he adds a public complaint against the disciples of the Lord and blames them when things don’t go according to his plan.
He is not looking for something selfish, he has come out of love for his son. In this he has done well, yet he mingles impurity in his request by pointing the blame at others. In fact St. John says that the disciples could often cure the sick, even though no one brought them with faith.
He says“the faith of the one bringing in the sick was often sufficient for receiving a cure even from lesser ministers, (and)so the virtue of the minister was also sufficient to achieve a miracle even without the faith of those bringing them in. Both of these are demonstrated in the Scriptures.”
Sadly we are sometimes like this father. We blame others and are quick to judge and point when things don’t go our way. We say things like “this is all your fault!” That is not good. It is a sin. Each and every Christian must be accountable for their own actions as well as their shortcomings.
We should not judge or blame others when things don’t go our way or when we feel hurt. To do so is to invite the Lord to be harsh in His judgment of us since the Lord says “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matt 7:2).
So we see the man blaming the disciples since his son was not healed by them, yet the Lord turns the tables and puts the blame in the rightful place,on the father and his lack of faith.The Lord says “O faithless and perverted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”
This was said not only to the man, but to the crowd in general. The Lord is reminding us that our issues and problems are often problems that we ourselves have caused or allowed. While it might be convenient to point the blame at others, it does us no good from a spiritual perspective.
That is why we see that the saints are quick to ask forgiveness of others, even when they have not done wrong. This act of humility is enough to free us and cause God’s face to shine upon us. Husbands and wives, even when you are having a disagreement or a misunderstanding, this principle can be applied. Be quick to take the blame upon yourself, and slow to place the blame on the other.
Now after the boy was healed by our merciful Lord, He is approached by His disciples who came privately and asked “Why could we not cast it out?” And the Lord told them, the same thing that He said to the crowd “Because you have no faith.” So we see that it was a combination. A perfect storm of faithlessness.
Yet our Lord goes on to give the disciples hope and this hope became a promise that was fulfilled in the lives of the disciples. The Lord said “For truly I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” What the Lord has said seems quite unbelievable.
Can we imagine a mountain moving from one location to another? Yet, we have to keep in mind that He is not telling them that they can do it by their own strength or power, but according to His strength and His power. This is the same power that created the Sun, the moon and the stars. It is the power that created all things, including the mountains.
In addition, some writers such as Origen tell us that the mountains are an allegory that refers to the evil that resides within some people. Yet with faith even this can be healed, meaning the mountain can be removed.
St. Chrysostom also commenting about this verse says “But if you say “Where did they move a mountain?” I will say that they did things much greater than that in raising up innumerable dead. For moving a mountain and moving death from a body are not at all comparable. After them other saints, far inferior to the disciples, are said to have moved mountains when necessity demanded. It is clear that the disciples also would have done so had necessity demanded.”
So we see that the promise of the Lord was fulfilled in the disciples. They became men of truly great faith. They who could not help a struggling boy, later were filled with the Holy Spirit and did indeed raise men from the dead and heal the sick with their very shadows.
This promise is given to all of the children of God. Only take your faith, however small it may be, and work to multiply this faith actively. And how do we do that? We take steps to exercise and increase our faith. We start by drawing near to the One in whom we have faith, we draw near to God in fervent prayer.
Faith begets prayers and prayer begets faith and both of these together beget life in Christ. May the Lord accept our faith, no matter how frail it may be and may He multiply it and say to us “O faithful and un-corrupted generation!”
And glory be to God forever