BY PRAYER AND FASTING
“And one of the crowd answered him, ‘Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit; 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.’ 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.’ 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. And Jesus asked his father, ‘How long has he had this?’ And 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.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ 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.’ 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.” (Mk 9: 17-27)
Jesus deals here with a “deaf and dumb spirit,” who makes his victim, this boy, do self-destructive things. This kind of evil spirit reminds me of active, untreated addiction: When we are in the grips of it, we become, on the one hand, self-destructive, and on the other hand, we become “deaf and dumb,” that is, unable to ask for, and receive, help. After healing this boy, our Lord says to His disciples that “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.” (Mk 9: 29) We can only be healed from our addictions by 1. Actively seeking God’s help in prayer, and 2. Fasting, that is, total abstinence from our drug of choice.
How consoling, how helpful, is Christ’s acceptance of the father’s small bit of faith in this case. Our Lord knows that we are, on the most part, a “faithless generation,” but He heals us anyway, time and again. If only we can come to believe, a little bit. Let me come to Him, with just a bit of faith, when either I or a loved one has lost all control, and is beyond the help of any human power. Our Lord is able and willing, even when we are not, to take us by the hand and lift us up. Because “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb 13: 8)