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What happened when the disciples failed to pray...
Gospel Reflection for February 20, 2023
An intense and chaotic scene takes place in today’s Gospel. After Jesus’ Transfiguration, He came down from the mountain with Peter, James, and John. “When they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and scribes arguing with them.” (Mark 9:14 NABRE)
Upon asking why they were arguing, a man from the crowd explained that his son has been possessed by a mute spirit, which has caused him to suffer since childhood, and has nearly killed him multiple times. This desperate father tells Jesus, “I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so.” (Mark 9:18)
Jesus says that this is a faithless generation, and commands that the boy be brought to Him. The boy’s father pleads with Jesus, “‘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.’ Then the boy’s father cried out, ‘I do believe, help my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:22-24)
With the crowd rapidly growing around them, Jesus commanded the spirit to leave the boy and to never enter him again. Though the boy at first appeared to be dead once the spirit left him, Jesus took him by the hand and he stood up.
His disciples later asked the Lord in private, “‘Why could we not drive it out?’ He said to them, ‘This kind can only come out through prayer.’” (Mark 9:28-29)
Jesus’ answer implies that the disciples hadn’t prayed for the boy’s liberation from the mute spirit. So, what did they do for him? Had they tried to heal the boy from their own power, rather than relying on God’s?
Clearly, not only is the boy in need of healing in this passage, but so are the disciples. They seem to be spiritually sick, because they failed to turn to God and pray for deliverance during a time of great need.
Not only did this spiritual sickness of the disciples prevent the boy from being delivered from the demon, but it also infected the faith of the boy’s father. This father wanted to believe in Jesus, and wanted to trust that Jesus could heal his son, but after witnessing the failure of His disciples, he doubted the Lord’s ability and power.
How often do we neglect prayer? How often do we fail to turn to God? Do we, too, try to handle things on our own, like the disciples did? Have our actions caused others to doubt or to abandon their faith in God?
May today’s Gospel remind us of the dangers of trying to take control, and handle things on our own. We must strive to foster an intimate relationship with God in our lives. We must prioritize our prayer life and truly live out the faith we profess to believe. In doing so, may others be brought closer to God through our example.