Feast of the Transfiguration
By Ken Asel
A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 9:14-29
14 When they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. 15 When the whole crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet him. 16 He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; 18 and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.” 19 He answered them, “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.” 23 Jesus said to him, “If you are able! — All things can be done for the one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You spirit that keep this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!” 26 After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand. 28 When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 He said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer.”
Alexander Pope first said “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Later similar words were set to music by Johnny Mercer and sung by Julie London in 1940. They’re remembered well even today: “Fools rush in where wise men never go / …open up your heart and let this fool rush in.”
When Jesus, Peter, James, and John return to the disciples, they encounter a boy who appears to be possessed by a demon. At first the Lord is exasperated that his followers could not handle the child. “How much longer must I put up with you?” Then Jesus questions the father, who tells of the years of suffering experienced by his child. He begs the Son of God, “If you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.” Jesus does help, then he says something sobering: this type of evil can only be defeated through prayer.
This passage is shrouded in mystery. It seems that, at a certain point, engaging evil is only learned through experience, not just instruction. Mark attests that the cure for the suffering of the epileptic child is not done by just applying a method, but by prayer accompanied by spiritual power.
In our own day evil is no less a mystery. Evil and corruption, even Satanism, come in many forms. When physicians heal, God’s work is glorified. But some evils defy medicine. When any power oppresses the poor and dispossessed, God’s people must pray, but also act as they’re able, so that “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Prayer, service, study, and action are the pathway to the world dreamed by God. God dreams that world and our role in its healing, still. So fools, pray up! It is time we rush in!
(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest from the Diocese of Wyoming. Devvie and he have been married for 30 years and have recently relocated again to the West and the Front Range.
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Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Down and Dromore (Church of Ireland)
The Diocese of the Rio Grande