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Saturday, February 9, 2013
Today’s Reading | Mark 9:14–29
When they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. When the whole crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet him. He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” Someone from the crowd answered him, “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.” He 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 him, 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 he 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 pity 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 child 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 he was able to stand. When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer.” (NRSV)
“I believe; help my unbelief!” To me, this verse is the essence of faith. “God, this is all I have, all I can offer!” Faith is a conversation with God in which we try to understand but, in the midst of our pain, can only utter desperate pleas with faint hope. Or we offer nothing but our weary years, dreaded fears, and dreary tears:
The moment in the hospital room when at the edge of death we pray sobbing as little children do, with the desire to be heard.
The moment when our life feels in crisis because of a broken home, lost relationships, or our own life in peril or our career ending, and we promise to change, if only God would hear us.
The moment when we say we are so thankful for God’s love and then gossip about our neighbors, humiliate those we think beneath us, and refuse to forgive those who have hurt us.
The moment when we say we are followers of Christ but do not actually follow in the way of the cross, which takes us from our own comfort zones and into the risk of love.
The “I believe” is not so much a courageous declaration of faith, but one desperately expressed, or for others of us, monotonously expressed. Then we remember that faith was never just about us. It is also about the One who calls us “Beloved.” And that is a comforting thought.
Lord, our God, you know who we are: People with good and bad consciences; satisfied and dissatisfied, sure and unsure people; Christians out of conviction and Christians out of habit; believers, half-believers, and unbelievers. . . . But now we all stand before you: in all our inequality equal in this, that we are all in the wrong before you and among each other . . . but also in that your grace is promised to and turned toward all of us through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
(from Fifty Prayers by Karl Barth)
Reflection written by Edwin Estevez, Pastoral Resident
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