Little Faith

A man came up to Jesus, knelt down before him, and said,
“Lord, have pity on my son, who is a lunatic and suffers severely;
often he falls into fire, and often into water.
I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.”
Jesus said in reply,
“O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you?
How long will I endure you?
Bring the boy here to me.”
Jesus rebuked him and the demon came out of him,
and from that hour the boy was cured.
Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said,
“Why could we not drive it out?”
He said to them, “Because of your little faith.
Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you will say to this mountain,
‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.
Nothing will be impossible for you.”
(Matthew 17:14-20)

Scripture Study

17:14–18 A man approached with great reverence and knelt down before Christ. This is the first time the word knelt is used in Matthew. He addresses Jesus with honor as Lord, and humbly begins his request by saying have pity on my son, echoing the petitions for divine assistance in the Psalms.

The man calls his son a lunatic, a word that means “moonstruck,” or affected by the moon, reflecting an ancient belief that the moon’s phases cause seizures in some people. The son has symptoms similar to the condition we call epilepsy, as he often falls into fire and water. The narrative later informs us that the source of this particular boy’s self-destructive behavior is not merely a physical ailment but demonic possession (17:18). Jesus rebuked him and the demon immediately came out of him.

The efficacy of Jesus’ word stands in contrast to the disciples’ inability to cure the man’s son (17:16), even though they had been given authority to heal the sick and expel demons (10:8). Jesus responds to this situation forcefully: O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you? He compares the present generation with the wayward Israelites in the desert whom Moses called a “perverse and crooked generation” (Deut 32:5 RSV) and “a perverse generation” whose children have “no faithfulness” (Deut 32:20 RSV)—the same critique leveled against the scribes and Pharisees in 12:38–39.

17:19–21 But against whom is Jesus’ critique directed? While some interpreters think it is the father and the people at large, the story’s emphasis on the disciples’ failure to expel the demon (17:16) and their “little faith” (17:20) seems to indicate it is Christ’s own followers who are the target of his lament. Jesus explains that they were unable to drive out the demon because of their little faith, which in Matthew refers to those given to anxiety because they do not trust God to provide for them.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today in our Gospel we meet a boy driven mad by a demon and the disciples could not heal him. They asked Jesus why they had failed, and he said, “Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

In all circumstances, you have to pray with faith. Have you noticed how Jesus, time and again, says to people before working a miracle, “Do you believe I can do this?” Once, Matthew tells us, Jesus was unable to perform many miracles because he was met with so little faith among the people.

Lots of people today, especially in the healing ministry, seem able to reproduce what Jesus did, precisely because of the purity of their faith. Is part of our problem simply a lack of faith? We allow our skepticism to get the better of us; we’re just a little embarrassed by asking God for things, or we’re convinced that he is a distant power only vaguely connected to our lives. But God is far greater than that.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

The Cost

Jesus said to his disciples,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay each according to his conduct.
Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here
who will not taste death
until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”(Matthew 16:24-28)

Scripture Study

16:24 Deny himself: to deny someone is to disown him (see Mt 10:33; 26:34–35) and to deny oneself is to disown oneself as the center of one’s existence.

16:27 The parousia and final judgment are described in Mt 25:31 in terms almost identical with these.

16:28 Coming in his kingdom: since the kingdom of the Son of Man has been described as “the world” and Jesus’ sovereignty precedes his final coming in glory (Mt 13:38, 41), the coming in this verse is not the parousia as in the preceding but the manifestation of Jesus’ rule after his resurrection.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in our Gospel for today Jesus outlines the cost of becoming his disciple: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” We have a very antiseptic view of the cross, for we have seen it for so long as a religious symbol.

But for the first nine centuries or so of the Christian dispensation, artists didn’t depict the cross, for it was just too brutal. Say what you want about the violence in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, it probably came as close as any work of art to showing the reality of a Roman crucifixion.

But here’s the point: we are meant to see on that cross, not simply a violent display, but rather our own ugliness. What brought Jesus to the cross? Stupidity, anger, mistrust, institutional injustice, betrayal of a friend, denial, unspeakable cruelty, scapegoating, and fear. In other words, all of our dysfunction is revealed on that cross. In the light of the cross, no one can say the popular philosophy of our times, “I’m okay and you’re okay.” This is why we speak of the cross as God’s judgment on the world.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

Serve Me

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me.”

(John 12:24-26)

Scripture Study

12:24 This verse implies that through his death Jesus will be accessible to all. It remains just a grain of wheat: this saying is found in the synoptic triple and double traditions (Mk 8:35; Mt 16:25; Lk 9:24; Mt 10:39; Lk 17:33). John adds the phrases (Jn 12:25) in this world and for eternal life.

12:25 His life: the Greek word psychē refers to a person’s natural life. It does not mean “soul,” for Hebrew anthropology did not postulate body/soul dualism in the way that is familiar to us.

Scripture Reflection

There is an apparent paradox here between Christ’s humiliation and his glorification. St Augustine said, “it was appropriate that the loftiness of his glorification should be preceded by the lowliness of his passion.” This is the same idea as we find in St Paul, when he says that Christ humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross, and that therefore God the Father exalted him above all created things. This is a lesson and an encouragement to the Christian, who should see every type of suffering and contradiction as a sharing in Christ’s cross, which redeems us and exalts us.

Our Lord has spoken about his sacrifice being a condition of his entering his glory. And what holds good for the Master applies also to his disciples. Jesus wants each of us to be of service to him. It is a mystery of God’s plans that he—who is all, who has all and who needs nothing and nobody—should choose to need our help to ensure that his teaching and the salvation wrought by him reaches all men

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.