February 24, 2020
by Kyle Lierk
Creighton University's Campus Ministry
click here for photo and information about the writer

Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

James 3:13-18
Psalms 19:8, 9, 10, 15
Mark 9:14-29

Praying Ordinary Time

Cooking Lent
Recipes for Ash Wednesday,
all the Fridays of Lent and for Good Friday

What Can I Do Before Lent Begins?

There is a great scene in the film “The Legend of Bagger Vance” where the character of Vance, an aspiring golfer played by Matt Damon, has found himself in the rough (literally and figuratively) on a hole during a tournament.  The predicament of the spot causes him to quickly fall into a dark place emotionally and he considers quitting.  Just at that moment his caddy, a God-like character played by Will Smith, enters the scene and reminds him of his own potential.  It takes the teacher’s voice and belief to bring the student back from the brink of his unbelief.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is in full-on teacher mode.  He has just come down from the mountaintop with three of his friends when he happens upon the rest of his disciples engaged in an argument with a growing crowd.  Perhaps he is still dripping with light from his recent transfiguration or perhaps his infamy has preceded him, but the crowd sees him and are “utterly amazed.”  Like any good educator he begins with a question, “What are you arguing about with them?”

Quickly, Jesus shifts his tone from one that is curious to one that almost has a chastising ring to it.  When he learns that his students, the disciples, have been unable to drive out the dark spirit that possesses a child in their midst, he retorts, “O faithless generation, how long will I be with you?  How long will I endure you?  Bring him to me.”  I can almost see the frustration (and possible sadness) on his face before he takes the “here, let me do it” approach.  A bit later, the father of the possessed boy seems to even question Jesus’ ability when he says, “If you can do anything‚Ķ”  Again, Jesus quips almost sarcastically, “”If you can!’” quoting what sounds like doubt from the father.

Then comes the crux of the story and the real teaching moment for Jesus.  He shares with the father, loud enough so everyone within earshot can hear, “Everything is possible to one who has faith.”  Well if that isn’t a lesson I need to continue learning, I don’t know what is!  In my imagination with the scripture, I join the father in saying, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”

Like Bagger Vance and this father, there are times when the dark spirits of life are “shouting their bad advice” (as Mary Oliver calls it) and I succumb to the confusion and chaos that causes.  I lose sight of my true north and begin finding myself in the “rough” of life.  Inevitably, Jesus shows up with light in his eyes through my wife or a friend or some momentary gift from nature and reteaches me the lesson of belief.  As St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote in his Autobiography (referring to himself in the third person), “At that period God dealt with him as a teacher instructing a pupil.”

As we step up to the threshold of Lent with Ash Wednesday this week, I desire to sit up straight in my desk, eyes forward and sharpened pencil at the ready to learn what new lessons God has to teach me about deepening my belief.

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