“I believe, Lord, help my unbelief”
Anthony Bloom of Sourozh
21 July 1996
In today’s Gospel, as in other parts of the New Testament, we see men, women and children coming or being brought to Christ, in the hope that they will be healed — healed of their physical disease, healed of misery, of pain, of agony of life. And every time Christ says to them, “Dost thou believe that I can do this?” And on this occasion, the man who was asked about it concerning his ill son said, ‘I believe, Lord, help my unbelief’. But if we believe that Christ our Lord has power to save, there is more to it, because what we are expected to believe is not in the divine power only, but in divine compassion.
The text of today’s Gospel speaks of mercy. Mercy means tenderness, it means caring, but beyond this, there is this very great, and in a way frightening word, ‘compassion’, which means readiness, and indeed not only readiness but reality of suffering together, of carrying together the whole suffering of another person. And indeed this is what God has done in His incarnation. He has taken upon Himself not only the human nature with all its frailty, but all the pain, all the suffering, all the agony of each of us. And if we turn to Him, asking for healing, for help, what we really mean to say is, ‘I believe, Lord, that Your love is such that there is no pain of mind, no agony of mind, no suffering of body which You do not participate in. Yes, You have been crucified, sharing not only our death, but the pain which sears at every heart and tears every limb.’ Can we turn to God in our need and say, “Lord, I believe in Your compassion. I believe that whenever I suffer, justly or unjustly, for my own fault or not, You suffer with me, You share my agony; and beyond this, Your agony is greater than mine, because You know, more than I do, about what I could be, in body and soul.’
And so when we are in need of divine mercy or divine help, let us not simply turn to Him and say, “Lord, I am in need and You have the power”, let us turn and say, “I know, Lord, that there is no suffering, no pain, no agony which You do not share with me; I worship Your love, I bow down before Your crucifixion, I accept the horror of Your sharing all my suffering, and, because I believe in Your compassion so profoundly, so entirely, grant me to share in Your wholeness”. Amen.
The Lesson of the Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew.
Saint Matthew §72 (17:14-23a).
At that time: There came to Jesus a certain man falling down on his knees before Him, saying: Lord, have pity on my son, for he is a lunatic, and suffereth much: for he falleth often into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to Thy disciples, and they could not cure him. Then Jesus answered and said: O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? Bring him hither to Me. And Jesus rebuked him, and the devil went out of him, and the child was cured from that hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus secretly, and said: Why could not we cast him out? Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief. For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain: Remove from hence hither, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you. But this kind is not cast out, but by prayer and fasting. And when they abode together in Galilee, Jesus said to them: The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: and they shall kill Him, and the third day He shall rise again.
Resurrectional Troparion, Tone 1.
When the stone had been sealed by the Jews, and soldiers were guarding Thy most pure Body, Thou didst arise on the third day, O Saviour, granting life to the world; therefore, the powers of heaven cried out to Thee, O Giver of life: Glory to Thy Resurrection, O Christ. Glory to Thy kingdom. Glory to Thy dispensation, O Thou Who alone lovest mankind.
Theotokion, Tone 1.
When Gabriel greeted thee, O Virgin, Rejoice, and at his voice the Master of all became incarnate in thee, the holy ark, as the righteous David said, thou wast shown to be more spacious than the heavens, because thou didst carry thy Creator. Glory to Him Who came to dwell in thee. Glory to Him Who came forth from thee. Glory to Him Who set us free by thy childbirth.
Dogmatic Theotokion, 1st tone.
The universal glory born of men, who hath given birth unto the Master, the heavenly gate: let us praise Mary the Virgin, the song of the bodiless hosts, and the adornment of the faithful. For she was shown to be a Heaven and a temple of the Godhead; destroying the middle wall of enmity, she ushered in peace and opened the Kingdom. Possessing, therefore, this anchor of faith, we have as champion the Lord who was born of her. Take courage, therefore, take courage, O ye people of God; for He shall fight thine enemies, since He is the Almighty One.