Sunday, February 19, 2017

"I Do Believe, Help My Unbelief!"

All wisdom comes from the LORD and with him, it remains forever, and is before all time the sand of the seashore, the drops of rain, the days of eternity: who can number these? Heaven's height, earth's breadth, the depths of the abyss: who can explore these? Before all things else wisdom was created; and prudent understanding, from eternity. Sirach 1:1-4

Then he questioned his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" He replied, "Since childhood. It has often thrown him into the fire and into the water to kill him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us." Jesus said to him, "'If you can!' Everything is possible to one who has faith." Mark 9:21-23

Father, help my unbelief. Send to me your son, Jesus, to have compassion on me and my sins. Holy Spirit, give me the prudence, sense of social justice, fortitude, and temperance to do what is right.

St. Mark again makes profuse use of the exclamation “mark” with words coming from our Exasperated Jesus today. Jesus, Peter, James and John have just descended directly from the Mystery of the Transfiguration on Mount Sinai only to be confronted by the man with the possessed son. They man answers some of the questions posed by Jesus until he slips up – like the wanna-be tent-builder Simon Peter slipped up on the mountain – searching for the right words. If I was in a direct encounter with Jesus, I certainly would not know exactly what to say either.

Jesus disrupts the crowd who expect a miracle without paying the price. The price of disruption is faith. The man’s comment sparks Jesus’ passions (again) with the declared solution, “Everything is possible to one who has faith.” This line also alludes back to the passage from Hebrews in our reading Saturday: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”

The father hopes for a cure for his son. He rightly turns to Jesus but does not find the right words. However, the Father does find the right prayer. The wisdom the father needed eventually comes to him through the Lord. His faith is the realization of the cure hoped for and the things not seen until the boy is cured.

"I do believe, help my unbelief!"

Jesus answers and his actions disrupt the affliction of the son possessed by a mute spirit. And Jesus challenges him to live in faith now that the father has received what was hoped for and has tangible evidence of the love of God for all of us.

Belief. Unbelief. Each disrupts the other.

Jesus continues to try to rouse the people out of their complacency. It is not unlike what our modern church leaders are trying to do with us. Consider these comments from San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy as quoted in the media recently.

“We must disrupt those who would seek to send troops into our streets to deport the undocumented, to rip mothers and fathers from their families. We must disrupt those who portray refugees as enemies, rather than our brothers and sisters in terrible need. We must disrupt those who train us to see Muslim men and women and children as sources of fear rather than as children of God. We must disrupt those who seek to rob our medical care, especially from the poor. We must disrupt those who would take even food stamps and nutrition assistance from the mouths of children,” the bishop said.

The same sentiment was echoed by Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles:

“I do not like the harsh tone, the sense of indifference and cruelty…They are playing with our emotions, with people’s emotions, toying with their lives and futures, and that’s not right,” Gomez said, later adding “A person is still a person even though he is without papers.”

And this from Pope Francis challenges our belief and unbelief: “Migrants are our brothers and sisters.” And this statement also from the Pope during a 2015 meeting in Bolivia: “When we look into the eyes of the suffering, when they see the faces of the endangered Campesino, the poor laborer, the downtrodden native, the homeless family, the persecuted migrant, the unemployed young person, the exploited child, we have seen and heard not a cold statistic, but the pain of a suffering humanity, our own pain, our own flesh.”

How do these statements challenge you to live out your faith-in-action differently on behalf of those who are persecuted not only in their home country but here as well?

Ironically, the current cultural tone against immigrants and refugees is happening as survivors commemorate the 75th anniversary of the executive order that authorized the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. Roughly 120,000 Japanese immigrants and Japanese-Americans were sent to desolate camps that dotted the West because the Federal government claimed they might plot against the U.S. Thousands were elderly, disabled, children or infants too young to know the meaning of treason. Two-thirds were citizens.

The Catholic Church is the church of the refugee Holy Family who fled to Egypt to escape the killing spree of Herod. We have been at the forefront of resettling refugees from around the globe including thousands from Southeast Asia who settled here after the Vietnam War.

How does our faith call us to speak out to make sure that what happened to Japanese Americans doesn't happen to Muslims, Latinos or other groups? How does our faith call us to stay involved and stay aware of what's going on around us?

FILE - In this April 27, 2002, file photo, a copy of a poster from 1942 is posted in front of an antique Greyhound bus in downtown Watsonville, Calif., as participants reenact what happened to their relatives exactly 60 years earlier during their internment in 1942. Roughly 120,000 Japanese immigrants and Japanese-Americans were sent to desolate camps that dotted the West because the government claimed they might plot against the U.S. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

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