July 26, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I have been out of town this week. I’m taking the good news today from Luke 9:37-43a.
On the next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. There was a man in the crowd who cried out, “Teacher, I beg you, look at my son; he is my only child. For a spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams and it convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it releases him only with difficulty, wearing him out. I begged your disciples to cast it out but they could not.” Jesus said in reply, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you and endure you? Bring your son here.” As he was coming forward, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion; but Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and returned him to his father. And all were astonished by the majesty of God.
Peter, James, and John had just experienced Jesus’ transfiguration. It had been a dazzling, trance-like encounter that climaxed with God’s instruction for them to listen to His son. Jesus, on his part, had been in full communion with his Father and fortified for his journey to Jerusalem and the cross.
As always, though, Jesus had to “descend” into humanity. He had to deal with suffering, with doubt, with clamoring for help. It seems that his patience was a little thin. It may have seemed to him that he was making little progress in turning people into workers in the kingdom of God, even his disciples. He sounds exasperated and even desperate as he knows he has little time left to fulfill his mission. He had to show people over and over and over again the power of God to forgive and heal and yet they seemed astonished each time. Their faith was not deep enough to sustain belief in God’s love. And the disciples’ faith was not strong enough to cast out this demon even though Jesus had given them authority over all demons.
Such is the experience of life — a succession of highs and lows. There are stretches where everything seems to be going well in my life and I’m happy, serene, confident. All things seem good and possible. Then I hit a rough patch. Something unexpected happens — loss, disappointment, unfair treatment. Most of which are beyond my control. Too often I question God as if it were His fault or, at least, His failure to protect me. Thinking on those times I realize how shallow my faith is and how I have to be shown God’s love and healing over and over again. Jesus could easily say of me that I am faithless and perverse. I shudder to think that he might ask how long he will endure me, my faithlessness and perversity.
However, Jesus overcomes his exasperation and beckons the boy to him, healing him, and returning him to his father restored to health. And so he does for me. Or at least I have come to believe so. He overcomes his annoyance with me, cleanses me of my sin, and restores me to my Father in heaven. How often will he do this? How long will he be with me? All the days of my life through my highs and lows and despite my faithlessness and perversity. I, too, am astonished by his love, the majesty of God revealed in His son. That’s what sustains my belief just as it did for the disciples after Jesus’ death and resurrection.