THE POWER OF GOD LIMITED BY UNBELIEF

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time  July 8th, 2018

I am always astounded by this passage in the gospel reading: “So He was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.  He was amazed at their lack of faith.”  Jesus uttered these words when he was in his home town where his family and friends did not accept him nor believe in him.  Jesus exercised the power of God in his teachings and in the good works He did.  However He was limited by human resistance.  I would like to suggest that there are three important truths we can draw out of Jesus’ words.
First, Jesus was no miracle worker seeking to dazzle the crowds.  I always remember the song of Herod in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’:  “Come on, Jesus, walk across my swimming pool.”  Jesus never worked a miracle to show off or dazzle anyone.
Secondly, the Power of God was at work in Jesus’ teaching and in his good deeds to heal the sick and cast out evil spirits.  People ask me what I am going to do in retirement.  I answer that by the grace of God  I will continue what I have always tried to do as a priest and bishop:  to continue the work of Jesus by teaching the word of God, by bringing healing and reconciliation into people’s lives and by fighting the forces of evil.  The only difference is that now I am free to do the work of the Lord  without governing a diocese.
Thirdly,  When we abuse and misuse our freedom we can close off the action of God in the world. St. Cyril of Jerusalem the great Father of the Church from the fourth century – recognized as a saint by Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox and by the Anglicans – in his instruction to the Catechumens writes that we are to confess our sins and that God grants remission of sins equally to all who do so but “the sharing of the Holy Spirit is given differently to each one, according to the faith of each.”  “Little labor,” he says, “gets little reward.”  Like St. Paul, he encourages us to run the race.  In fact, he says:  “run hard in your own interest.”
It is not in our best interest to keep God at a distance. Our internal disposition and our faith makes all the difference in how God is able to work in our lives.  When we receive the sacraments of the Church we encounter Jesus personally, but our growth in holiness and goodness is restricted when we are not properly disposed and attentive in faith.
We do not want Jesus to be amazed at our lack of faith.  We ask God for the gift of faith and to help us in our unbelief so that we will be open to the power of God at work in our lives through Jesus – teaching us and healing us with His love.
Bishop Stephen Blaire

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