The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 17:14-23
One of the strongest and most difficult statements of our Lord Jesus Christ to His disciples is found in today’s passage. Our Lord says to the disciples “O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” It is a wakeup call and a reminder that the Son of God expects something from each of us. It is not enough that we know of Jesus Christ. It is not even enough that we claim to follow Him or come to the Church each and every week.
Christ our Lord is keenly interested in our hearts and minds. He is interested in our faith. Over and over again we see this emphasis in the teachings of the Lord. He asks in Luke 18:8 “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” This is offered to us as a challenge and a warning! Where is my faith today? Where was my faith yesterday, and last week and last month and last year? Where will my faith be in the future? Will I have a living and vibrant faith on the day that Christ calls me Home? When Christ returns, will we be numbered among the true faithful? These are some of the important matters that Our Lord shares with us from His heart.
We are blessed beyond all men because God has not hidden His wants or desires from us. He has told us exactly what is necessary for us and exactly what He desires from us. Ultimately, God desires us. He loves us and desires to have a relationship with us. He demonstrates this desire to be with us clearly, when He sends His Only Begotten Son to become a man like us and to suffer for our sakes.
Where is our faith? How do we exercise and increase our faith? The Lord Jesus in His mercy, doesn’t hide the truth from us. He shares it openly. After telling the disciples and the people that they lacked faith necessary to remove the demon from the sick boy, He tells them what is needed to accomplish this miracle. He says “this kind (of demon) can come out only through prayer and fasting.” In other words prayer and fasting are the means to increasing our faith. Prayer and fasting are energized by the grace of God and become powerful tools for our transformation. Prayer and fasting are not simply works. They are God ordained tools. Are we using them or simply putting them up on the shelves to gather dust.
In corporate America, they take special courses and receive special certifications to show that they are different than the crowd. With these special certificates they get hired more easily and they get pay raises. Anyone who doesn’t put in the small amount of time and effort to pursue these certifications is considered lazy or small minded. The payoff is much greater than the work involved.
Prayer and fasting are the special courses that every Christian has to pursue in order to get to genuine, strong, fervent faith. And the payoff of genuine, energized faith makes us forget all about the work that has gone into it. The payoff is great while the work was so little. The payoff is a vibrant, living relationship with the Living God and His Son Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. This is the goal of life isn’t it? This is why God created us, right?! He didn’t create us simply to go to school and get married and have kids and work hard and retire. He created us to know Him. If God is our single greatest treasure, shouldn’t a relationship with God be our single greatest motivator in life? Can we imagine what life is like when we are energized in our faith?
When we are energized in our faith, we no longer feel alone. When we are energized in our faith, we are no longer quick to lose our tempers and our peace. When we are energized in our faith, the walls that we’ve built up are removed and we can speak freely to others. When we are energized in our faith, not only God, but His saints, seem very close to us. When we are energized in our faith, we remember that everything in the world is vanity. When we are energized in our faith, we remember that the whole world is passing away and we will stand alone before God’s judgment seat. When we are energized in our faith, we can speak to God with full confidence that He is listening, and listen to God with full confidence that He is speaking.
When we are energized in our faith, God is our friend and not an enemy. When we are energized in our faith, we have no enemies, because we learn to love and forgive everyone for everything. When we are energized in our faith, the Holy Spirit pours an indescribable sense of peace and joy into our very being. When we are energized in our faith, we realize that the Church is stronger than anything in the world and can never be shaken.
Energized faith is an amazing thing. You can’t pay for it, you can’t buy it, and you can’t inherit it. But it is offered freely to those who are willing to put in sweat equity in the form of prayer and fasting. And if we are honest we can see that because most of American Christianity is sorely lacking in prayer and fasting, it is lacking in faith and in genuine connection with Our God. Are we content to be part of this problem, or will we strive to be a part of the solution?
Even the disciples who followed Jesus didn’t have the energized faith necessary to help the young boy. They had dedicated their lives to following Jesus but they lacked energized faith. They did not even have the seed of faith according to the Lord. The saints in our tradition teach us something different. They teach us that if you have genuine faith, everything is possible because God becomes a partner in our lives and “with God, all things are possible.” May we find the path of the saints through prayer and fasting! And Glory be to God forever AMEN.