Fourth Sunday Of The Great Fast. “O Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

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In today’s Gospel, a man whose son is possessed by an evil spirit asks first the apostles, and then Jesus to expel the evil spirit.  The disciples of the Lord could not do so, but the father perseveres, doesn’t give up faith that his boy, his son would be healed.  The demon, an evil spirit, would often throw the boy into fire and water, seeking to kill him.   The father’s request to the Lord Jesus is simple: “if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”   Our Lord’s reply was: “Everything is possible to one who has faith.”  To which the father of the boy replied: “O Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”

Jesus then commanded the mute and deaf spirit to come out of him and never enter him again.  Jesus took the boy by the hand, raised him up and he stood.  Upon returning home, His disciples asked the Lord why couldn’t they expel the demon.  Our Lord replied:  “This kind can only come out through prayer (and fasting).”

During the Great Fast, we who are true followers of Christ are called to continue to spiritually grow – that our faith might increase.  On this spiritual Lenten journey, our faith is to be lived and put into practice.  Our faith in Christ is to be alive and “vibrant.”   Elsewhere, Our Lord instructs His disciples:  “Just so (in like manner), your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”  (Matthew 5:16)

We Christians are to make Christ “the center of our daily lives.”  Each and every one of us needs Christ.  Jesus is our “anchor”.  The priest during the Divine Liturgy before the recitation of the Creed prays:  “I shall love You, O Lord my strength; for You are my stronghold and my refuge.”  From the time of our Baptism, we are no longer mere children of natural descent, but “children of God” and “heirs to the Heavenly Kingdom.”  But we must keep the Faith, persevere in times of tribulation. We are called to keep our eyes heavenward, remembering God’s promise of eternal happiness in Heaven if we but remain faithful to Christ and His Gospel of Love and Truth.

In his sermon last year on the Fourth Sunday of the Great Fast, Archbishop Ihor of the Lviv Archeparchy spoke about “perseverance” and gave the Old Testament example of Moses and his dealings with the Pharoah.  Moses patiently went to the Egyptian ruler again and again.  Moses was pleading for the Pharoah to let the Israelites go – to free them from the bondage of slavery.  Despite numerous signs from God – the turning of water into blood, frogs, lice, flies, livestock pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and the death of the firstborn children of the Egyptians, Pharoah remained “stubborn.”  Pharoah remained unrelenting, refusing to listen to the Holy Will of God.  The end result was the Pharoah’s army died in the waters of the Red Sea.

Hopefully, we all are developing a stronger, deeper relationship with Our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ.  We have received grace, the operation of the Holy Spirit, for the first time at our Baptism.  In each of the Sacred Mysteries (Sacraments), we received divine help, sanctifying grace.  In Baptism we have been cleansed from all sin and in Chrismation we have received the Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit.  Our senses have been anointed with holy oil and then with chrism to withstand the inclinations of the evil one, the devil.  God’s grace gives us the strength to be willing to stand out from the crowd, to suffer for the sake of “righteousness” here on earth.  For we know an eternity of joy awaits us in Heaven, the Kingdom of God. Let us seek His Kingship over us and all the rest will follow, including eternal life in Heaven.  Keep the Faith, persevere, and keep our eyes heavenward.  May the holy season of the Great Fast continue to inspire us to develop a deeper faith in Christ Jesus.

Fr. George Worschak

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