Tuesday, February 20, 2007

"Everything is possible to one who has faith"

In yesterday’s gospel reading Jesus told the father of a boy possessed by a daemon that “Everything is possible to one who has faith” (Mark IX.23). Is this because faith is some sort of magic catalyst that gives us powers we did not previously have? Perhaps. That’s pretty much what I always imagined as a child when I heard about ordering mountains to throw themselves into the sea and stuff like that. But I realized yesterday that this passage can be understood in another way too. Everything is possible to one who has faith because he believes certain things to be possible in the first place, whereas the man without faith, even upon seeing mighty deeds and miracles, will explain these things away. To the man without faith, healings or exorcisms are not acts of God, because he has no such category in his mind. Instead he must call them mere coincidences or acts of nature. Like the dwarves within the stable in C. S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, the man without faith will not see God’s actions, even if placed right before him. And so why would he ever ask for a miracle? “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke XVI.31).

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