Jas 3:13-18; Ps19:8-10,15; Mk 9:14-29
The law, the Torah, the Word of the LORD, these are the sources of wisdom for the simple. In another psalm we pray, “I was helpless so he saved me!” This is the truth more than we would like to admit. Sometimes our pride kicks in and we hide the fact that we all too often simply helpless. We are regularly confronted by a reality, often harsh and seemingly arbitrary, in which we complicate things ourselves and make our problems too difficult to handle. Rather than seek the wisdom available in our tradition or among our leaders, we sing the simplistic song: “I did it my way.” Our way may not be at all wise, and we can be sure if our ways reject the precepts of the Lord then our hearts are not filled with joy. If our plans do not accept the wisdom from on high, there is no refreshment in our soul. At the basis of such self-seeking we find a fundamental lack of trust for the LORD. When we do not trust in the Lord, we cannot experience joy or rejoicing in our hearts. Our eyes are blind to the enlightenment that the Lord has to offer us in his commands and precepts. Only in a pure fear of the LORD will we endure forever. Only in the justice of the Lord’s precepts will we find true joy. We pray with the words of our mouths and the thoughts of our hearts, that we may find favor before the LORD, our rock and our redeemer. Saint James is convinced and convincing that the church reveals the wisdom and understanding of the Lord only by living lives of humility and peace. Indeed, the Lord Jesus, the Torah Incarnate, instructs us that all who confront demons everyday must learn how to pray deeply because, “This kind can only come out through prayer.”
Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition are motivations all too popular. Today, the virtues of self-sacrifice and willing detachment are not taught much less encouraged. Saint James summons us to a life of wisdom. This kind of wisdom is unknown in a world that teaches that we must take care of “numero uno:” who else will? There is no hope for this generation to pass on a world where purity, peace, gentleness, cooperation, mercy and all the good fruits of the Spirit, until we in humility and wisdom. This kind of virtuous lifestyle, of good living, begins in the human heart. The very core of our self-awareness must come down from above. Our hearts cannot be earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. We must take up arms against a sea of troubles and thus opposing end them. Disorder and every foul practice cannot survive in a world where people consistently choose to plant virtue and uproot vice in the human heart. Such hard work is nothing less than the normal Christian Life. The Lord already does his part by giving us his peace and we respond by cultivating that peace in all our relationships. Without such a divine/human cooperation our world will dissolve into disorder and every foul practice. Is this not what is prayed for in every Mass when the priest says: “By this mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”
After returning from the mount of the transfiguration the Lord and his close friends are confronted with a lively discussion among the other disciples and the scribes. They catch a glimpse of the Lord Jesus and are filled with awe and wonder. Perhaps they can see a little of the uncreated light shining on the New Moses come down from the mountain. Someone from within the crowd runs up to the Lord Jesus to explain everything. The father of the possessed boy points out how inadequate the disciples have been. The Lord responds with a painful challenge to the disciples, “What an unbelieving lot you are! How long must I remain with you? Bring him to me.” As if to sharpen the tension, the demon again attacks the boy and throws him into convulsions. Then the Lord continues his challenge by addressing the father: by asking him to explain how long has this been happening? The father admits from the beginning of his life. The Lord Jesus seems to be offering the same challenge to the father that he offered to his disciples. Where is your faith? Why have you waited so long? Did you ever lay hands on the boy and pray for healing? Then the challenge reaches to the depths of the situation. The father begs for the Lord Jesus to help his son “if you can.” What do you mean “if”? Here the Lord Jesus teaches the father and the disciples: “nothing is impossible for God.” At this point in the dialogue the father has a conversion and cries out one of the most authentic prayers in the New Testament: “I do believe! Help my lack of trust!” The imperfect love of a father for his son moves his heart to grow in faith. Even if our faith is the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains and uproot trees. This is not magic. It is daily growth in prayer so that when we are severely challenged, we will have the wisdom and power to confront the evil one and to heal those in the greatest need.