Beloved brethren, in today’s Gospel we heard St. Matthew’s account of Our Lord’s healing the possessed son of the man who had little faith. The Savior has just descended Mt. Tabor after His glorious Transfiguration, and immediately he is confronted with the failure of his disciples to cast out a demon from this young man.
Christ rebukes the lack of faith on the part of the father, he casts out the demon, and then he instructs the disciples that “this kind cannot come out except by prayer and fasting.” Once again Christ demonstrates His power as the God-man, as the destroyer of the power of the devil, death, and hell. He has absolute authority over the demons, and they depart at His word. He is the Lord.
But what of the man for whom the Lord works this exorcism, the father of the possessed youth? His behavior is a lesson to us, concerning what happens to us when we blame God or other people for our own failings.
When Christ asks the father what is wrong with the boy, he answers that he is σεληνιάζεται, which comes from the old Greek word selene, that is, the moon. The man believes in the ancient superstition that gazing upon the moon can make someone possessed or mentally ill. (To this day, when speaking of someone who is insane, we sometimes still use the word “lunatic,” which means, literally, “moonstruck,” that is, made crazy – or possessed - by looking at the moon.) By doing so, the man is blaming God’s creation, and therefore God Himself, for his son’s condition. Then he goes further in his complaining, and he blames other people for his problem as well: “And I brought him to Thy disciples, and they could not cure him.”
How does Christ respond to the man’s complaints? He says, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I endure you?” In other words, He is telling the man: “Do not blame the Creator and His Creation. Do not blame my disciples. Blaming God and blaming others has brought this evil into your life. Your own lack of faith and your disobedient way of life have invited this demon to live in your son. It is your lack of faith that prevents my disciples from working this miracle for you.”
Beloved brothers and sisters: Is it not true that in our lives, as well, it is lack of faith in Our Lord as well as our being “perverse” – that is, stubborn and disobedient to God in not obeying His rules for our lives - which allow the devil to enter our lives and cause trouble for us? And when troubles do occur, are we not tempted to blame – and, sadly, do blame – God and other people for our sorrows, instead of looking deeply into our own thoughts, words, and deeds to see how we have allowed the devil into our lives through our passions and sins?
Often our lives seem so difficult, as if we are caught in a net of troubles and cannot escape. But I will give you a pair of scissors today, to cut your way out of the net. The two blades of the scissors are self-accusation and faith in God.
To acquire the saving habit of self-accusation, we must make the firm resolve, with God’s help, not to blame God or others for our problems, but rather ask to God to help us see our own sins, to understand the spiritual lesson God is trying to teach us by our sorrows, and thereby gain consolation and strength in our sorrows, through realizing that our problems have a spiritual meaning, that they do not mean that God has abandoned us, but, on the contrary, that He is helping us by calling us to repentance and salvation.
To acquire faith in God, we must ask the Lord very insistently to give us the vivid realization that we are creatures made from the dust, and that we rely absolutely on Him every minute for everything. Furthermore, we are sinners, we are completely guilty before Him: we are his debtors with a debt that cannot be repaid, and Our Lord’s Sacrifice on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins, His completely free gift of His Precious Blood shed for us, is our only hope of salvation.
When we realize our complete, absolute dependence on God for forgiveness, for our very existence, then we are moved from the depths of our being to cry out to him with heartfelt cries for His love, for His mercy, for His care over us. Then, by His grace, real faith is born in the heart.
So, when we feel that the troubles and sorrows of life are an inescapable net thrown around us, let us take up these two blades to cut our way out: Self-accusation and faith. You will see: though outward troubles may – indeed, probably will – remain, peace will be born in your heart through self-accusation, and hope – the conviction that, in spite of present troubles, all eventually will be set right - will be born in your heart through complete and childlike trust in God.
May Our All-Merciful Lord, through the prayers of His Most Pure Mother whose holy feast we are now celebrating, grant all of us these spiritual gifts, of self-accusation and of faith. May His peace, which “surpasseth all understanding,” which is “not of this world,” be born in our hearts. Amen.