March 31, 2020

Jesus' Pivotal Question to Us in Times of Despair

by Archbishop-Emeritus Stefan Soroka

As all of us practice physical distancing in this time of the coronavirus pandemic, we might give some thought to what Jesus Christ would say to you and to me as He walks amidst us. He would undoubtedly ask us a pivotal question as to our faith, just as He did when healing others. There are some lessons for you and me in these healing miracles as we cope with today's pandemic.

Recall when Jesus returned from the mountain top with his closest friends, only to find the apostles baffled, helpless and ineffective. They had fallen into despair because they could not help a father desperate for a cure of his ill son. Jesus challenges the father saying, "Everything is possible to one who has faith" (Mk 9:23). It is as if Jesus says, "The cure of the boy depends not on me, but on you". Herein lies a universal truth. To approach anything in the spirit of hopelessness is to make it hopeless. To approach anything in the spirit of faith is to make it a possibility. Many people are cursed with a sense of the impossible, and that is why miracles cannot happen. The father's response is inspiring to us, "I do believe, help my unbelief" (Mk 9:24). Jesus did not disappoint the father. He cured the boy.

When they were by themselves, the apostles asked Jesus what was the cause of their failure, their inability to cure the boy. They remembered how Jesus had sent them to preach and to heal, and to cast out the evil spirits. Why could they not do it this time? Jesus simply answered that this kind of cure demanded a closeness with God through faithful prayer. They had been equipped with power, but it needed prayer to maintain it. There is a lesson here for you and for me. God gives each of us a gift. We are called to maintain close contact with him, or the gift will wither and die. Jesus also cautioned the apostles, and cautions you and me to be humble in using our gifts. When that which should be used for God's glory is used for our own glory, then the virtue goes out of it.

A similar pivotal question was asked of the many blind people Jesus healed. You will recall that some cried out for mercy as Jesus passed by, while others were brought to Jesus for healing. They are all asked what they would like. Jesus asks them if they believe He can do this for them. Their affirmative "yes" of faith yields their regaining their sight. There is also the occasion when some have to follow Jesus into the house, not healed amidst the crowds. Jesus emphasized the value of our personal relationship of faith with Him. Jesus wants us to sit down face to face with us, and to be with us fully. We all need God's healing because there are parts of us that are broken and need to be put back together again. There are parts of us that are sick that need to be restored to health. We need the reviving power of God within us, just as the blind men received in their healing and restoration of sight.

Then there is the story of a man who was deaf and who had an impediment in his speech. Jesus treats him with much compassion, taking him aside to heal him. Jesus wants to take you and me aside also. He does not want to embarrass us that we may be strangers to him in prayer. Jesus wants us to step outside of our own rushing and meeting agendas and expectations and perceived priorities. It was the man's inability to hear which made his speech imperfect. Are we ourselves so involved with our friend "hurry"? Are we so busy ourselves that we are lost and confused as to what really matters, subject to frustrations and temptations, sinfulness, imperfect speech because we have lost the skill of hearing? Are we unable to hear God's word in our lives, and thus the speech of our lives is impaired or imperfect?

When we pray, let's ask for healing of our listening ears. Ask God to rid you and me of that which causes our spiritual darkness. Step aside from your preoccupations, addictions, clutter of communication. Step aside with the Lord and allow Him to be present to you, to hear His whispers of what He desires of you, to know of His unconditional love for you.

"Do you believe I can do this for you?" If our answer is a "yes" of faith in Jesus, then He will fill us with an inner power that will be beyond what we ever imagined. This is the life of faith. God leads you and me by progressive touches or experiences to that moment when our "yes" becomes our life, the moment of complete peace in Jesus Christ!

(source: Eparchy of Edmonton)

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