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OUR SUFFERING IN THE FACE OF FAITH IS A MYSTERY

Father Francis's picture
Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Habakkuk 1:12-2:4 & Mt. 17:14-20

A woman was diagnosed as having terminal cancer. She prayed for a cure but her condition only worsened. One friend told her that it was foolish to pray because prayer accomplished nothing. Another told her that the only reason she was not cured was that her faith was not strong enough. She said that anyone who had enough faith will be cured. Both friends were wrong.

The Gospels give ample witness to the power of prayer. Today we see how Jesus responded to the prayer of faith of the man who asked Him to take pity on his son. When Jesus told His Apostles that they could not cure the boy because they lacked faith, He meant that they had failed to recognise the source of their power, which was Himself.

I cannot recall any instance when Jesus did not choose to cure a sickness having been asked. But I do know of many instances today when He does not cure people. When a cure does not take place after someone has asked, it does not necessarily mean that the person lacked faith.

God has His own good reasons for not curing that person. Consider, for example, St Therese of Lisieux, who died of tuberculosis at the age of 24. Did she ask for a cure? I don't know. Most certainly her community, family and friends must have. If she had asked, I am sure you would agree that there was nothing wrong with her faith. And I am sure the cumulative faith of her loved ones would have justified a cure. But God had His own good reasons for not curing her.

Suffering will always remain a mystery. The prophet Habakkuk could not understand why God allowed Judah's enemies to punish her. Judah was sinful but so were their enemies. The only answer is to be found at the end of today's first reading, “The upright man will live by his faithfulness.” In other words, faith is necessary, not to bring about cures and alleviate suffering, but to live with God and to accept His will in our lives. If Jesus Himself had to suffer death on the Cross to give humanity the possibility of eternity in Heaven can we expect to escape suffering in our own lives?

Lord Jesus, increase our faith in You. Help us to understand that when we come to You for help, all that matters is that we accept Your will for us, whether our prayers are answered or not.

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