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Seventh Week of Ordinary Time

James 3:13-18 & Mk. 9:14-29

The letter of Saint James is filled with practical advice for Christian living. In today's first reading he writes, "If there are any wise or learned men among you, let them show it by their good lives, with humility and wisdom in their actions." The surprising thing about this advice is that we do not ordinarily connect wisdom and humility.

We tend to think of humble people as rather shy and retiring while we picture wise individuals as outgoing and articulate. We also think that the humble person allows other people to walk all over him or her and accept everything without a word of protest. But for St James the humble person is the one who knows how to blend humility with wisdom.

Obviously St James had a distinctive understanding of the word "humility” for the humble person is neither apologetic nor timid as so often portrayed. They recognise their own debt to the society in which they live and their own dependence on the God they serve. They are realistic about what should be attempted and what can be achieved in life. They are persistent in the face of life's difficulties and disappointments. This is how wisdom shows itself.

There is a well-known prayer that captures the qualities of a truly humble person. "Lord, help me to change the things I can change, to accept the things that I cannot change, and give me the wisdom to recognise the difference between the two." There we have the blend of humility and wisdom.

In the Gospel we witness a desperate father who came to the nine Apostles hoping that they could free his son from an evil spirit. Jesus and three of the Apostles were absent, on the Mountain of the Transfiguration. In all the commotion the nine grew more and more frustrated, trying their hardest to cast out the demon but without success. Suddenly Jesus came down from the mountain. "The whole crowd was struck with amazement and ran to greet Him." The father told his story of disappointment because His disciples could not help him.

Jesus' response was a rebuke, "You faithless generation". Did those nine Apostles think they had been doing their best? What then was wrong? Those Apostles wanted to reduce this whole matter to their own efforts. They had lost sight of the truth that all good in our lives comes from God Himself. On our own we are hopeless but with God all things are possible.

Jesus said that this demon tormenting the boy could only be cast out through prayer. The Apostles had faith but they needed more. They needed prayer. All that was required from them was a simple exercise of the faith they already had and a trusting reliance on God to give what the boy needed.

What of us? Are we a “faithless generation”? Do we wonder why our prayers seem not to be answered? We pray for healing, for peace, for vocations, for a better job, for the conversion of our children. We have the faith. We believe God can work wonders. But do we pray enough for it? After urgent and persistent prayer we have to be patient and leave the outcome to God. Our prayers are not necessarily answered as we want, but they are always answered in His way. He has our best interest at heart and He will always do the best for us.

Lord Jesus, we believe that You can work wonders. Remove our frustrations in prayer. Make us pray earnestly for all our needs and leave the outcome in Your capable hands, for we believe that You have our best interests at heart.

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