February 21, 2011 - Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

“Why could we not drive the spirit out?”, the disciples asked Jesus. If they had asked us, they would have gotten a different answer. If someone had asked us why this boy could not be healed, we could have spoken about the meaning of suffering in this world. We could explain how God’s will is not our will and his ways are not our ways. We could say that there is a time for everything. Our only problem is that standing against us, disagreeing with us, is Jesus.

It is not only in this passage that Jesus says things that are embarrassing for us Christians. Here he says, “Everything is possible to one who has faith.” In another place he says, “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” In another place he says, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” These and other quotes are embarrassing for Christians because we know that they are not true. We ask and do not receive. We believe that God will help us, and then he does not. If we Christians really had the kind of power that Jesus suggests we should have, we would be a lot more convincing to the world.

What is the problem? Is God unable to fulfill his promises? No, he can do all things. Was Jesus mistaken about how prayer would work for his disciples? No. Jesus is never mistaken. The problem must be ours. Something must be standing in the way of miracles. Jesus calls it a lack of faith, but this faith must not be simply confidence. There is no shortage of arrogant confidence in this world. The faith that Jesus is talking about is a humble faith, a gift from God, inseparable from hope and love. Every sin is a sin against faith because every sin doubts God in some way. It is popular to think that some act can only be a sin if it is hurting somebody, but if every sin is blocking our way to God, than every one of our sins is hurting people because our sins are preventing us from working miracles. We will never be totally free from sin on this earth. The prayer of the boy’s father is a good example for how we should pray, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” We stand always with some faith but in need of more.