daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer
Homily of Monday, 7th Week of the Year, February 23, 2009
Sirach 1:1-10; Ps 92; Mk 9:14-29

"But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could we not cast it out? And he said to them, This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting" (Mk 9: 27-29).

Today Jesus cures a boy possessed by an unclean spirit. His disciples could not cure him, although on other occasions they cast out demons (Mk 6:13). This type of demon, Jesus says, is more difficult to cast out, and can only be driven out by "prayer and fasting" (RSV, KJV, NKJV). Jesus was, therefore, the only one who could cast it out at this time. We see also that the Greek vocabulary used here for raising the boy up is the same that is used for Jesus' resurrection from the dead: he "raised him up (egeiren), and he arose (aneste)" (Mk 9:27).

We begin Lent this week, a time of "prayer and fasting" (Mk 9:29) in preparation for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have for this reason noted the references to "prayer and fasting" and to the resurrection of Christ that occur in this passage.

Christ came to give us a participation in his resurrection, so that we could begin, even now, to live a risen life in him (Col 3:1-2; 2:12; Eph 2:6). This new and risen life, which we have in Jesus Christ, is also a life of "prayer and fasting," in which we renounce the delights and pleasures of this world to be better able to enjoy with an undivided heart those of the Kingdom of God and of the new creation. It is also a life of communion with the risen Christ, lived in prayer and contemplation, in which we see his light shining in our heart (2 Cor 4:6), and contemplate his glory, which contemplation transforms us into his image through the working of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 3:18).

Such is the new life that we have in Jesus Christ. He justifies us through our faith by his death, for his death paid our debt of punishment for our sins, having substituted for our death, so that thus forgiven, justified, and released from this penalty, we might rise with him now to live a new and risen life in him. It is a life of communion with him, in which we are transformed in his image. It is a life of renunciation of this world to live ahead of time in the light and splendor of his resurrection, an illumined life of contemplation and of fasting from the delights of this world.

After his resurrection, his disciples would have more power to cast out demons of this kind, for they would be risen with Christ (Col 3:1-2), living a new life of prayer and fasting, seeking no longer the things of earth, but rather those of heaven (Col 3:1-2).



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