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May 21: Mary, the Mother of the Church

Reading James 3:13-18
Gospel Mark 9:14-29

“How long will I endure you?”

Today’s Gospel scene takes place immediately after the Transfiguration. There on Mount Tabor Peter had wanted to stay, saying, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us make three booths....” But Jesus teaches Peter that it was not for transfiguration that He came into this world. In today’s Gospel passage Jesus descends the mountain and enters into a conflict occurring between His disciples and the scribes, resuming the ministry for which He had become Flesh and dwelt among us.

To His disciples, who were unable to drive out the mute spirit, He expresses disappointment at their lack of faith. He rhetorically asks, “How long will I be with you? How long will I endure you?” But Jesus’ criticism on this occasion is not limited to His own disciples. When the father of the possessed son says to Jesus, “If you can do anything... help us”, the Lord cries out, “If you can!”

Then Jesus speaks to the heart of the matter: the lack of faith. He had moments before described His disciples as a “faithless generation”. Now He says to the father, “Everything is possible to one who has faith.” But to this, the father offers an intriguing rejoinder: “I do believe, help my unbelief.” Jesus must have thought him sincere since He did help him. But perhaps today we could pray over this father’s words, make them our own in prayer, and root all of the petitions that we make today in these words. This father recognizes that in this fallen world, faith is always needed. One cannot outgrow the need for faith.