Daily Devotional for March 18-24
Mark 917 Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. 18 And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.”
19 He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” 20 Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.
21 So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”
And he said, “From childhood. 22 And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” 26 Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.
28 And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”
29 So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
30 Then they departed from there and passed through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know it. 31 For He taught His disciples and said to them, “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.”
Commentary from Venerable Bede:
This ignorance of the disciples proceeds not so much from slowness of intellect, as from love for the Saviour, for they were as yet carnal, and ignorant of the mystery of the cross, they could not therefore believe that He whom they had recognised as the true God, was about to die; being accustomed then to hear Him often talk in figures, and shrinking from the event of His death, they would have it, that something was conveyed figuratively in those things, which he spoke openly concerning His betrayal and passion.
Nothing in the world is more important than the salvation of human souls, and there is no subject more worthy of unceasing and perpetual remembrance than the redemption of the world by the Son of God from sin, the curse and eternal death. The Holy Church has engraved in her Divine services, by means of eternally indelible letters, by images and rites, the whole ordering of our salvation, in order that men–so inclined to forget God, and the salvation of their souls, and all that God has done for their salvation, eternal joy and bliss–should constantly have, so to say, before their eyes, and as though within their reach, all God’s great, most wise and good deeds concerning them, and that they may continually be urged to repentance, amendment, and salvation, and shun the vanities of this corrupt and fleeting world. “The world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
The Holy Ghost is called the “Comforter,” in accordance with His nature, which is peace, joy, and infinite blessedness, and also on account of His action upon the souls of believers, whom He comforts like a mother in their virtues, in their sufferings, sorrows, and sicknesses, and in their great deeds for the faith. He is also called the Comforter in contrast to the evil spirit of despondency that often attacks our souls. Every phenomenon has its cause. Thus having done any good action, you rejoice and find consolation in your soul. Wherefore? Because the Holy Ghost is in you, “Who is everywhere present and filleth all things, the Treasury of blessings,”  Who comforts us. On the contrary, if you have done anything wrong, or even sometimes when you have not done anything wrong, you feel a deadly despondency in your soul. Wherefore! Because you have allowed the evil spirit of despondency to take possession of you. For instance, you begin to pray and you are overcome with despondency, whilst before you began to pray you did not feel it; or else you begin to read some book of a spiritual character– for instance, the Holy Scripture–and you are also overpowered with despondency, slothfulness, doubt, incredulity, and unbelief. Wherefore? Because you are tempted by the evil spirits of despondency, doubt, and unbelief, who are using their craftiness against you. Or you are in church, attending Divine service; but you feel dull, heavy, and slothful–despondency has fallen upon you. Again wherefore? Because the evil spirits of sloth-fulness and despondency are using their craftiness against you.
A terrible truth. Impenitent sinners after their death lose every possibility of changing for good, and therefore remain unalterably given up to everlasting torments (for sin cannot but torment). How is this proved? It is plainly proved by the actual state of some sinners and by the nature of sin itself–to keep the man its prisoner and to close every outlet to him. Who does not know how difficult it is, without God’s special grace, for a sinner to turn from the way of sin that is so dear to him into the path of virtue? How deeply sin takes root in the heart of the sinner, and in all his being! how it gives the sinner its own way of looking at things, by means of which he sees them quite differently to what they are in reality, and shows him everything in a kind of alluring light! It is for this reason that we see that sinners very often do not even think of their conversion, and do not consider themselves to be great sinners, because their eyes are blinded by their self-love and pride. And if they do consider themselves sinners, then they give themselves up to the most terrible despair, which overwhelms their mind with thick darkness and greatly hardens their heart. But for the grace of God, what sinner would have returned to God? For it is the nature of sin to darken our souls, to bind us hand and foot. But the time and place for the action of grace is here alone: after death there remain only the prayers of the Church, and these prayers can be efficacious for penitent sinners alone–that is, only for those who have developed in their souls the capability of receiving God’s mercy or of benefiting by the prayers of the Church–that is, the light of the good works which they have taken with them out of this life.
“Worship God in spirit and in truth.” In truth, for instance, when you say, “Hallowed be Thy Name.” Do you really desire that God’s name should be hallowed by the good works of others and by your own? When you say, “Thy Kingdom come,” do you indeed desire the coming of God’s Kingdom? Do you wish to be the abode of the Spirit of God, and not the abode of sin? Would you not more willingly live in sin? When you say, “Thy will be done,” do you not rather seek your own will than that of God? Ay, it is so! When you say, “Give us this day our daily bread,” do you not say otherwise in your heart, “I do not need to ask this of Thee–I have enough without asking; let the poor ask for this”? Or else, do we not greedily seek for more, and are not satisfied with the little, or with that which God has given us? We do not thank God for what we have as we ought to. In the prayer: “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us,” do you not think in yourself: “God knows that I am not such a great sinner. It seems to me that I do not live any worse than others, and there is no need for me to ask that my trespasses or sins should be forgiven”? Or else when you thus pray is there not any displeasure or anger in your heart against anyone?–for if so, you lie shamelessly to God in your prayer. You say, “And lead us not into temptation,” but do you not yourself rush impetuously into every sin, without even being tempted? You say, “Deliver us from evil,” but do you not live in friendship with the Devil or with evil of every kind, of which the Devil is chief? Beware, then, that your tongue is not in discordance with your heart; see that you do not lie to God in your prayer. Always keep this in view when you say the Lord’s Prayer, as well as when you say other prayers. Watch whether your heart agrees with, everything that your tongue pronounces.
Be especially meek and patient in sickness and in other various unfavorable circumstances; for, spoiled by health, plenty, happiness, and peace, we are then particularly apt to become irritable. Happy are those of us who do not passionately attach themselves to anything, for they are not bound by avarice…In times of rest, ease, and gratification of the flesh, the latter revives with all its passions and inclinations, whilst in times of oppression, vexation, and weariness, it is subdued with all its passions; this is why, in His wisdom and mercy, the Heavenly Father subjects our soul and body to grievous afflictions and sicknesses, and this is why we must not only patiently endure these afflictions and sicknesses, but must rejoice in them…
We amuse ourselves with our knowledge of worldly vanity, and to acquire this knowledge we waste most precious time, which was given to us for our preparation for eternity. We frequently amuse ourselves with our affairs and business, with our duties, fulfilling them heedlessly, carelessly, and wrongfully, and using them for our own covetous, earthly purposes. We amuse ourselves with beautiful human faces, or the fair, weaker sex, and often use them for the sport of our passions. We amuse ourselves with time, which ought to be wisely utilised for redeeming eternity, and not for games and various pleasures.