In today’s Gospel reading from Mark, we have what I consider one of the most useful prayers ever prayed. Our reading takes place right after Jesus’ Transfiguration. Jesus, along with Peter, James and John come down from the mountain, only to find a large crowd in an argument with some scribes. When Jesus asks about the argument, the father of a boy possessed by a demon comes to Him. As the father explains to Jesus about the inability of the disciples to drive out the demon, and what the demon does to the boy, he says to Him, "But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us." Jesus then replies, vehemently, I think, "If you can! Everything is possible to one who has faith." And then the father exclaims, "I do believe, help my unbelief!"
For me, the father’s exclamation expresses the feelings of many faithful people who are often confronted with situations that are very difficult or hurtful. Sometimes the hurt or difficulty causes us to question our faith. But if we look at our lives, we can see that our experiences remind us that our faith in God is not displaced. And so we turn to God and say, "I do believe, help my unbelief!"
This simple plea from a distraught father also expresses the kind of wisdom about which is spoken in our first reading from Sirach. To say "I do believe" shows wisdom in that we realize there is a God. To say "Help my unbelief" shows wisdom in acknowledging that we are dependent on God, even to have faith.
And so, when circumstances may bring us to the point of doubt, we need not be afraid of our doubt, but instead we can turn to the God who loves us, and say, "I do believe, help my unbelief!"
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, Fairfield, Alabama.