When we are Weak in our Faith

On the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent, we hear the story of a man whose son was sick, and the Apostles were not able to heal him. Christ challenges him. “All things are possible to those who believe.” The father confesses his weakness, “I believe, help my unbelief.” His son was healed. When asked, Christ explained, “This kind can only go out through prayer and fasting.” In this current health crisis, we must increase our prayer and fasting, not to bargain with God, but to strengthen our faith, so that we can better understand His will for us.

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Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Be Transfigured, where we invite you to live a new life in Christ. We pray that this episode is a blessing to you and will inspire you to rededicate your life to Jesus Christ. We invite you to join us for worship or study at the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where visitors are always welcome. We'll be back in a few moments to share some more information about our ministry.

This is a very difficult time for all of us, my brothers and sisters, today the fourth Sunday of our Great Lenten journey in memory of Saint John Climacus. He's named that because he wrote a very important book called 'The Ladder of Divine Ascent' he's sometimes called Saint John of the Ladder because of that book that he wrote. And in that book, there are many steps, there are many rungs of the ladder to approach heaven. And as I have mentioned before, so many times, most of us spend our entire life on the first rung of the ladder, because the first rung on the ladder is to renounce the world. Now, this does not mean that we go into some kind of seclusion necessarily, but what St. John wanted us to appreciate and what is consistent with the gospel message, my brothers and sisters, is that we have to be willing to separate ourselves from all of the fleshly things, all of the worldly delights.

You could say the creature comforts is an expression that we use in our modern day, and we have to be willing to set those aside so that we can reach God. Because as we mentioned last week, talking about the cross, we have to be willing to deny ourselves and so our entire Christian life is about this journey of renouncing the world so that we can embrace God, not just because. And this morning the gospel lesson is a profound one, especially for those of us now dealing with the COVID-19, the coronavirus pandemic because it focuses on someone who is sick and someone pleading to God for help, and someone who brought to his disciples, he said, "I brought my son to your disciples, but they couldn't heal him." All of these particular emotions are very consistent with what we're experiencing today with this COVID-19 situation.

The virus is spreading throughout our world, our particular country has the most number of confirmed cases anywhere in the globe. Even here in Florida, the numbers continue to rise and so we have been asked to stay at home as much as is humanly possible. I'm not quite sure what that means in the year 2020 except that we should only leave our house if absolutely necessary. And so the church consistent with worrying about the safety of all people have asked people to stay home.

And so it is a very difficult thing. We struggle, we miss the liturgy, we miss being able to come and light our candles. And in the middle of all this we turn and we watch the news and we continue to see the number of the cases climbing and we might ask the same thing that the father asked Christ. I brought my people, I brought my son in the case of the gospel and nobody could heal him. And Christ says, "Oh you faithless generation, how long do I have to be with you?" And he turns to the father and he says to the father, "How long has he been sick?" And the father says, "From childhood."

And the father says, "But if you can do anything," he's talking to Christ, "If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us," and here my brothers and sisters, I think is what is so critical for us to hear and to absorb and to embrace during this particular time. Christ says to him, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." And the father's response in Greek. Now in the English, this gets translated, I believe, help my unbelief. But I think in this case, the modern Greek gives us a better understanding of the faith of this father. Remember, he's begging in front of Christ and in the modern Greek it says, «Πιστέω Κύριε, βοηθησέ με ομως, η πίστη μου δεν είναι δυνατή».

I think that's a much better translation of the original Greek because it is not a matter of faithlessness. In the modern Greek the father says, "I believe, Lord help me however, because my faith is not strong," and I think that's where so many of us rest in these days. We worry whether or not we're going to have the faith to endure what is coming. We do not know just how bad this pandemic is going to get. We do not know just how bad the economic impact is going to be. And so when our prayers to God, we say, "We believe God but help us because we're weak in our faith." And that's not a bad thing. It's not an evil thing to be weak in our faith, because then Christ hearing the faith of the father, knowing that he needed a little boost, Christ heals his son.

And then the apostles said, "Lord, why couldn't we do these things, why couldn't we heal the man?" And He says, "This kind can only go out through prayer and fasting." How appropriate that this particular virus is hitting us during Great Lent. For those of us who are able, my brothers and sisters, now is the time to increase our prayer and fasting as much as is possible for God to help us. This kind, there are so many struggles in our life and we know that there are times that the struggles can only be helped through prayer and fasting. And so I invite all of you, my brothers and sisters to your ability, increase your time of prayer during this time. It should be fairly easy, you're stuck at home most of the day. Instead of watching TV all day long, turn the TV off, go to your prayer corner, light your candle, light your incense and pray. Pray for God's guidance, pray for God's comfort. We all need God, pray to Him.

And then as much as it is possible fast. This time, of course we're fasting anyway, but take advantage of this opportunity and increase your fasting, again within your ability, not because some magical thing is going to happen is not as if God is going to look down from heaven and say, "Okay, good. Yani fasted for three days this year, okay, the virus is gone." That's not how God works. But in our prayer and in our fasting, we learn to better understand God's will for us. We better understand that sometimes we can't have everything we want. Right now we can't have church the way we want it, right now we can't have work the way we want it, right now we can't have school the way we want it. In this struggle when we pray and when we increase our fasting, God will help us understand that we can't have everything we want and our anxiety will be lifted by God.

Even St. John Chrysostom tells us, when we accept and embrace our struggle, the struggle becomes less, the pain becomes less. And so my brothers and sisters let us hear the wisdom of this morning's gospel and let us pray and fast for the conclusion of this pandemic that God may come upon us, guide the hands of the doctors. And as we pray in every liturgy for our civil leaders as well, pray that God inspire our national and local and state leaders to guide us appropriately through this time for the good of our people, for the health and salvation of all. I know that it is difficult to stay home, but God is still with you. God still loves you. God is holding your hand and he will never abandon you. Glory to God for all things.

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