Matthew 17: 14-23
(10th Sunday of Matthew)
In this passage, the Evangelist Matthew narrates the healing of the young epileptic. It is important to understand the context in which this healing took place. Christ had taken the three leading disciples – Peter, James and John – to Mount Tabor so that they could witness His Transfiguration. While Christ was away, the father of the young epileptic approached the remaining nine disciples to see if they could cure his son. They could not. This was despite the fact that all of the disciples had been given power by Christ to cast out unclean spirits and to heal all kinds of sickness and disease (Matt 10:1). It was only upon Christ’s return from Mount Tabor, and the young epileptic being brought directly to Christ, that the healing finally took place. In the face of these circumstances, Christ expresses His deep exasperation: “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?”(Matt 17:17).
Lack of faith – both on the part of the young epileptic’s father and on the part of the disciples – had ensured that the healing could not initially occur. Christ, however, does not only refer to these representatives of the human generation as “faithless”. He also refers to them as “perverse”. Indeed, it is the perversity of our fallen human condition, which derives from the sin that so greatly dominates us, that leads to the weakening of our faith in Christ and our consequent ineffectiveness in the struggle against the Evil One. Accordingly, Christ calls on us to first strengthen our faith if we are to effectively challenge the influence of Evil both within ourselves and within the world we live. Christ makes clear the weapons which must be used if this goal is to be achieved: prayer and fasting (Matt 17:21). Fasting is particularly effective in attacking the bodily passions, especially the passions of the flesh, while prayer attacks all other passions of the heart. When practised as directed by our Orthodox Church and under the guidance of our spiritual father, these weapons can cleanse us from our perversity and heal us from spiritual illness.
Source: August-September 2014 Lychnos Edition