The Fourth Sunday of Great Lent (Mark 9:17-21)

by Kosmas Damianides

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

How much it must grieve a father or a mother to see his or her child suffering without reason. To undergo pain and confusion, and for what? We might ask, 'Where is God in our plight?' or 'Where is God in all this pain and confusion?'

In the Gospel read on the Sunday of the fourth week of Lent, we hear of a father who was on his last hope. His son was possessed by a certain spirit from childhood, which was causing his son pain and confusion, and not even Jesus’ disciples could cure him. He brought his son to Jesus, who upon hearing of the father’s plight became exceedingly upset at the whole crowd and expressed these strong and direct words "Oh you faithless generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you." The child was immediately brought close to Jesus and the spirit convulsed him instantly. We know the child was eventually healed, but at what price? The father accepted and confessed his unbelief and beseeched God with tears to make his faith complete? This is the price, the fulfillment of our faith paid by Christ himself yet we must pray and beseech Him as well.

It is perhaps important to stress here that this miracle account nowhere refers to the spirit by titles such as demon or devil. It is perhaps because this spirit is in reference to the spirit of this world, the enemy of Christ. It is the spirit of this generation well rooted in society, it is passed on to our children like a virus.

Brethren remember these words well, it is the spirit of this generation that throws our youth about like the child with the spirit we heard earlier today. It smashes them to the ground, it throws them into the fire to be burnt, it throws them into the water to be drowned. The spirit today is drugs, alcohol, gambling, and anything else that distorts the image and likeness of God within them.

This spirit has a very old history going way back to primordial man (our common ancestors Adam and Eve). It is firmly established and can not come out by anything except, as our Lord instructed Moses, as our Lord instructed his disciples or as our Lord instructs us today, by beseeching God through prayer and fasting.

"Why could we not cast it out", his disciples asked their Master in shame. We also must ask why can’t we cast this spirit out from our lives and our children's lives?

Brethren, because as our Lord tells us "This kind can come out by nothing except prayer and fasting". This is the key to contrite repentance, and this twofold formula treads on the head of this serpent of old and yields our first step towards heaven.

It is no coincidence then that the first and second steps of St John Climacus’ 30 chapter book "THE LADDER - (OF DIVINE ASCENT)" are concerned with the renunciation of this life, this world we live in and detachment from all ephemeral pleasures. We honour St John Climacus as a great Saint of our church who reminds us that going to heaven is not as easy as getting into an elevator and pressing a button. On the contrary, it is a long and hazardous climb which is impossible to scale fully unless we beseech God for assistance and guidance.

May God grant us all fullness of faith, peace and joy on our climb to heaven. Amen.

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia
Parish of St Nektarios, Perth WA

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