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MONDAY HOMILY: I Do Believe, Help My Unbelief!

By Fr Stephen B. Reynolds
May 20th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In moments of trial or doubt, let us echo the prayer of the Gospel:  "Lord, I believe.  Even though my faith is only the size of a mustard seed, I do believe.  Help my faith to grow.  Help me to trust in you!"

SUGAR LAND, TX (Catholic Online) -  Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino died on Good Friday, 1520.  As his body lay in state, the unfinished painting that Raphael considered his greatest work was paced behind the bier. The Transfiguration presented two scenes.  Occupying the center of the work is the figure of Jesus, transformed in the presence of Peter, James and John.

At the base of the painting, there is another scene, depicted in today's Gospel.  There is a crowd of people gathered around a young man who is in obvious distress.  We learn from the Gospel that he is possessed "by a mute spirit" (Mark 9:17).   Despite the attempts by Jesus' disciples to cure the boy, his condition is unchanged.

The Lord's reaction catches our attention:  "O faithless generation. How long will I endure you?"  (Mark 9:19).  Why did Jesus react this way?  Perhaps it was because the disciples were trying to act on their own authority, independent of the power of Jesus.  

Later on, Jesus would commission his Apostles and then a large group of disciples, to carry out specific evangelical missions.  They would be commanded to preach the Gospel, to heal the sick, and to vanquish the devil.  Before this could take place, Jesus' followers will need to learn to rely upon him and him alone.

Without complete dependence upon Jesus, neither the disciples nor we can expect to accomplish any good.  

There is another reason for Jesus' strong reaction when he comes down from the mountain after the Transfiguration.  He already sensed the unbelief in the heart of the suffering boy's father. "If you can do anything, have compassion on us," the Father says (Mark 9:22).  "If you can!"  Jesus replies (Mark 9:23).  We can almost see the consternation and disappointment on the face of the Lord.

The Gospels record many occasions in which Jesus is saddened by the lack of faith in those around him.  St. Mark recounts an earlier episode when Jesus visited Nazareth, his hometown.  He received a cool reception, and Jesus "was amazed at their lack of faith" (Mark 6:6).

No wonder that the man with the sick boy begs Jesus for an increase in the virtue of faith.  "I do believe, help my unbelief," he cries out (Mark 9:24).  Acting on this seed of faith, Jesus cures the boy.

How many times have we found ourselves in the position of this father?  Things in life aren't going our way.  We may suffer the loss of a job, face financial uncertainty or unexpected illness.  Perhaps a friend or family member has died unexpectedly or under difficult circumstances.  We may be tempted to doubt that God is paying attention to us. 

In those moments, let us echo the prayer of the Gospel:  "Lord, I believe.  Even though my faith is only the size of a mustard seed, I do believe.  Help my faith to grow.  Help me to trust in you!"

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that "by faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God" (CCC, no. 143).  The intellect and the will, together with the passions, are the principle parts of the soul.  For our faith to grow, our minds must be opened to the truth that faith communicates.  The study of the Word of God, the Catechism, and sound spiritual writings can contribute mightily to our grasp of the faith.

In addition, we must shape our wills - our power to make decisions - to echo the will of God.  This involves the practice of virtue, that is, the cultivation of good spiritual and moral habits.  A good confession will clear the slate, and then fortify us with the grace of God for the battles ahead.

The Virgin Mary is the perfect example of faith.  She never doubted God's word to her.  With Mary at our side, may we grow in faith and clear the way for the Lord to act in our lives.

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Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds is the Pastor of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, Texas. You are invited to visit them on the Web at: www.SugarLandCatholic.com.

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