There is a story about a tight rope artist. One day he struts through some small town and invites everyone to the deadly canyon nearby to witness the most amazing tight-rope act in the world. As you can imagine the whole city gathers that afternoon at the canyon. The tight-rope artist had tied a rope between two large boulders and asked the crowd, “Who believes I can walk across this rope?” Since most people didn’t know him only a few hands went up in the air. After he walked across the rope, he turned to another rope he had hanging between both sides of the canyon and asked, “Who believes I can walk across this rope?” A few more hands went up. He went across and came back and asked, “Who believes I can walk across this rope pushing this wheelbarrow?” Now the crowd was getting into the act and even more hands went up. He went across pushing the wheelbarrow and came back and asked, “Who believes I can walk across this rope pushing this wheelbarrow full of bricks?” Even more hands went up. He did it and asked, “Now who believes I can walk across this rope pushing this wheelbarrow with a person riding inside?” Every single hand in the crowd shot up….. “Ok,” he said, “who will it be?” How many hands do you think were left in the air?
This story is normally told to help us understand faith. As long as the crowd didn’t have to risk their own lives they were willing to believe the tight-rope artist could push someone across the canyon because there was enough proof that he could do it. He had already pushed a wheelbarrow full of heavy bricks. BUT when it came time to risk their own lives, nobody had that much faith. You can almost hear the crowd, “We really want to believe you, but we just can’t. Why don’t you push someone else first, THEN we can believe.” The same holds true for this morning’s Gospel.
This morning we see a crowd gathered debating with the Disciples. “Then one of the crowd answered and said, ‘Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’” (Mark 9.17-18,22) When the father was faced with the idea of belief, much like the crowd watching our tight-rope artist, he didn’t think he had enough. “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!’” (Mark 9.24)
The father of the child wanted to believe, he really did, but just couldn’t. How many times in our own lives have we heard or said, “I want to believe you, I really do, but I just can’t?” When it comes to the teachings of the Church, we all find ourselves at some time or another looking over the edge of a deep valley at a man with a wheelbarrow and we just can’t find the courage to jump in. My brothers and sisters, when we cry out to the Lord, He will answer us just like He did in this morning’s Gospel. Jesus “rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” (Mark 9.25)
With the trials of life it can sometimes feel like we’re being thrown into a fire or knocked around by somebody much stronger than we are especially with the extra worries about the current job market and economy not to mention the complete lack of morality in today’s society. We talk about our struggles with our neighbors and we look to the government for help, but like the disciples, “they could not.” Our only alternative is to bring our struggles to the Lord and call to Him with tears for help.
When we cry out for help the only thing we need is to believe. “All things are possible to him who believes.” Do we believe or is our faith weak? Listen to how the Modern Greek translates this passage, “I believe Lord, help me however, because my belief is not strong.” (Mark 9.24 Modern Greek translation mine – Πιστεύω Κύριε, βοήθησέ με, όμως, γιατί η πίστη μου δεν είναι δυνατή) The father had enough belief to bring his son to Christ and that little belief was enough and his son was healed. The Lord says it very clearly, “All things are possible to him who believes.” Believe my dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Believe that Jesus Christ is the incarnate Word of God and became man so that we could be united with Him and all things will be possible.
It will be possible to feed our families; to cloth and educate our children; to stay warm in winter and dry when it rains. After all isn’t that what’s important? Aren’t these the things we are worried about with this current economy? I doubt we are losing sleep over whether we can afford that fourth car or that new boat, unless of course we are fishermen but I don’t think any of us in this parish make our daily living as fishermen – it may be our hobby but not our living. All these things will be possible if we believe in Christ.
Listen to the words of Saint John the Evangelist, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” (see John 14.1-14) And if we believe in Christ, then we will want to be as close to Him as possible. Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15.5-8)
Trust me my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, get in the wheelbarrow, the ride is fantastic!
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
We hear in this Sunday's Gospel that a crowd gathered “immediately” when it became known that Jesus was at a neighbor’s home teaching. We also hear that the paralytic “immediately” did as the Lord commanded him and picked up his bed and walked home. In a society that is so in love with instant gratification, this morning’s Gospel lesson is a gentle reminder about how we should have our priorities. When Christ calls us, we should immediately respond to Him as the paralytic did in this morning’s Gospel. It is in this immediate action to follow the Commandments of God that we realize our salvation. “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14.21)During the Divine Liturgy, each Sunday, we hear the words “With the fear of God, with faith and love draw near.” The Lord is calling each of us to communion with Him. Will we delay and be like the scribes who doubted the saving power of Jesus or will we be like the paralytic and immediately respond and be saved. Let us not delay. The only true instant gratification is found in the Lord.