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Monday – Seventh Week – OT2
Readings: Jam 3:13-18; Mk 9:14-29.
1/ First Reading: RSV James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity. 18 And the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
2/ Gospel: RSV Mark 9:14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd about them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed, and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” 17 And one of the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit; 18 and wherever 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, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him; and when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has he had this?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again.” 26 And 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 arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
I. THEME: The power of prayer
People are often wise when they have to solve difficult problems for their nation, companies or communities. They organize meetings to discuss, to come up with short and long term plans, and to divide duties for their members. Such a wise preparation helps them to be successful in leadership. Similarly, we must also solve many individual problems in our life, but we seldom discuss with wise people, especially with the wise God, who controls everything in this world. This is the reason why we failed many times.
To pray is to discuss our problem with God and to seek His counsel. Jesus, though he is God’s wisdom, rarely did anything without praying to God, his Father. For examples, Jesus prayed during his baptism in Jordan river; he prayed before he decided to select the Twelve among his disciples; he intensely prayed before his Passion in the Ghetsemane garden; and he prayed daily before the dawning of a new day.
Today readings emphasize on the power of prayer. In the first reading, the author of James advised his faithtul to pray for God’s wisdom and to act according to it, not according to worldly wisdom. In the Gospel, Jesus made known to his disciples that the reason why they couldn’t expel the devil from the boy was because they didn’t pray to God.
1/ Reading I: Making a distinction between divine and human wisdom
The Letter of James paid a special attention to works: “Faith without works is dead.” Works can also be used to determine the true wisdom. The author helped us to differentiate between two kinds of wisdom.
1.1/ Worldly wisdom: First of all, worldly wisdom isn’t identical between what is inside and what is outside, as a Vietnamese maxim, “Outside is full of gentleness, inside is full of knives.” Or, “A honey tongue, a heart of gall.” Many people talk about love, justice and common good; but deep down inside, they are planning to achieve their ambition and unrighteous desires. These people are full of jealousy, selfishness and competition in their heart, but when they talk to others, not many can recognize their true identity. The author of James said, “This wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” Those who live according to worldly wisdom have no peace because they fear of many things: they fear of others’ superiority, they are afraid of others to discover their true identity.
1.2/ Divine wisdom: According to James, divine wisdom will help people to become:
+ Pure: one seeks to build up others, not to take advantage of them for one’s own profit.
+ Peace: one strongly believes in God and has no fear of others; therefore, he always has inner peace.
+ Gentle and open to reason: one treats people well and doesn’t consider himself better than others. He is open to others’ suggestion.
+ Full of mercy and good fruits: one has compassion on others and is ready to provide helps anyway that he can.
+ Without uncertainty: the one who possesses divine wisdom is always confident that he has the truth and shall not be wavered.
+ Without insincerity: he knows God sees everything, he can’t hide anything from God; therefore, he lives as in God’s presence.
Those who live according to the divine wisdom shall harvest righteousness because he sows everything in peace.
2/ Gospel: “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
2.1/ The disciples couldn’t expel a dumb spirit: The power of expelling evil spirits came from God, and Jesus has bestowed on his disciples this power. Why couldn’t they expel this dumb spirit? We know for certain that the power of expelling evil spirits is based on God’s, not on human power, because the power of evil spirit is stronger than human power. But God’s power in man comes from his faith in God. Jesus himself reminded this point to his disciples many times; for example, “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, `Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you” (Mt 17:20). Therefore, their weak faith is the reason why they couldn’t expel the dumb spirit. This reason is strengthened by Jesus’ cry out: “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.”
2.2/ Everything is possible with the one who trusts in God: When Jesus asked the father, “How long has he had this?” He said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.” Hearing his answer, Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.” Recognizing what Jesus is meant, the father of the child immediately cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” To recognize one’s weak faith as the father is a humble and wise act before one asks God to bestow His wisdom and to strengthen one’s faith. The stubborn didn’t recognize his weakness, how can he recognize what he needs to do to solve his problem?
When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again.” And 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.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.
2.3/ “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer:” After witnessed everything and heard of Jesus’ explanation, the disciples still didn’t understand why they couldn’t expel the dumb spirit. When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
If they prayed to God, He shall reveal to them what they need to do. But if they don’t pray and believe only in their power, they shall never win over devil’s power because they are much stronger than them. This is the reason why we see in the expelling formula, the one who wants to expel must start with, “In the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, I command you to get out of this person.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– God is wise and controls everything in this world. We must pray to Him to ask for His counsel daily, especially when we must make important decisions.
– The evil spirit’s power is only less than God but stronger than human power. What they always try to tempt us is to rely on our power and don’t pray to God.
– When we see that we are lacking of wisdom and faith, we should humbly pray to God so He shall bestow on us more faith and wisdom.