As Jesus comes down the mountain with Peter, James, and John, following his transfiguration, there is no doubt of his immediate depth of compassion for the father and son he meets at the bottom. A man emerges from the crowd that waits for Jesus, and as he kneels at Jesus’s feet, he begs Jesus to have mercy on his son. He describes the heartbreaking story of a parent whose child’s illness makes it impossible for him to protect his son. It is a powerful reminder of the very real desperation people feel when someone they love is seriously ill. It is terrifying and tragic when we are not able to protect or care for the people we love, and there is perhaps no greater feeling of helplessness than when we cannot take care of a vulnerable child. We are not strangers to these situations. I am alarmed by the number of children in our culture who suffer from all kinds of diseases, mental and physical. Being part of youth retreats, I’ve known the demand for keeping up with young people’s medical needs. It is a helpless feeling to seek to minister to families dealing with chronic physical or mental illness.
“Why could we not cast it out?” asked the disciples. Have you not experienced the frustration reflected in the disciple’s question? The challenges before us seem much greater than our ability to respond. Often, when I feel overwhelmed by a situation that I have no obvious solution and seems way beyond me, I will recognise that the only hope is divine intervention. It is time to turn to God in prayer.
How often have we allowed little faith to paralyse us? The odds seem so great in the world with so much pain and suffering. We, as a church, can easily become distracted with programs that entertain and with concern about the growth in numbers. Instead, the church is called to do the things we can do, like praying with and for those who are deceased in body and mind, being a presence with them, and being an advocate for them. We do all this with confidence, not to be filled with our own sense of weakness but in God’s power to work through it. Let our devotion to Jesus as disciples not empty us but rather fill us with power and trust.
Giltus Mathias CP is a Passionist priest that lives at St.Brigid’s Retreat, Marrickville.