Deepen our faithfulness to you
As I was reading this week’s Collect, for The Second Sunday after Trinity, I immediately thought of those words from St Mark’s Gospel, “I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). Jesus’ disciples had tried unsuccessfully to heal a boy with a spirit that put him in harms way and prevented him speaking. When the boys father spoke to Jesus he was told that, “All things can be done for the one who believes”. To which the father immediately responded with, “I believe, help my unbelief!”
You can almost imagine the disciples responding in a similar way when Jesus tells them later, after they asked him why they couldn’t cast the spirit out, “This kind can come out only through prayer.” (Read the full account in Mark 9:14-29.) Presumably prayer was always a part of what happened during the healing process; so perhaps Jesus was hinting about a specially focussed kind of prayer requiring even more spiritual effort. This incident happened soon after the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-13), following it immediately in Mark’s Gospel. Perhaps we’re to assume that Jesus’ time on the mountain was, for him, a time of particularly intense prayer, giving him on his return particularly heightened power.
It seems to me, though, that there was a considerable amount of belief being shown that particular day. The boys father believed enough in all that he’d heard about what was happening around this charismatic figure of Jesus to bring his ill son to him. He believed in Jesus’ friends enough to let them try to heal his son when he found them before finding Jesus himself. The disciples believed enough to try. All of this would have shown already a tremendous amount of faith. But it appears, not quite enough.
This prompts a couple of thoughts in my mind:
- I can remember all too well the pain I felt when some well-meaning friends told me that I wasn’t healed from my particular health issues because I didn’t believe enough. They equated, as did I at the time, “healing” with “cure”. I believe, now, that healing can mean cure, but doesn’t necessarily have to. And I believe, too, that I have received quite a lot of healing in my life in the last few years, despite the fact that I’m certainly not cured.
- We often suppose that someone’s early years as a Christian pilgrim are the most difficult, and that as we mature and grow in faith things will get easier. But the opposite often turns out to be the case. And just as we’re learning to walk alongside Jesus, we’re given harder tasks, demanding more courage and spiritual energy.
We will, throughout our Christian pilgrimage, experience challenges to our faith and beliefs. Through those challenges there is huge potential for growth. When they come our way, let us join in prayer with the father in this story, “I believe, help my unbelief!” Let us pray that our faith in God, and his Son Jesus Christ, will be deepened and encouraged to grow. And then let us take the next step on our own pilgrimages of faith.
whose mercy never fails:
deepen our faithfulness to you
and to your living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Additional Collect for The Second Sunday after Trinity
is Copyright © The Archbishops Council