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When the Apostles are alone with Jesus, they ask him why they could not cast out the demon, and he tells them plainly that it was because of their little faith. They had been with the Lord so long, they had seen so many of his miracles, and yet they have but little faith. It is surprising, and yet a greater cause of surprise is verified in the condition of the world to-day. The world has heard the words of Jesus, and witnessed his deeds for nineteen centuries, and yet there is little faith in the world to-day. A vast multitude have no faith at all. Another large part think they believe, but they do not believe, and the exceptional few believe as it behooveth to believe.
In the subsequent portion of the history of the event, there are some difficulties in the texts. Many good authorities omit the twenty-first verse of Matthew, which corresponds to the twenty-ninth verse of St. Mark. Again, in this verse of Mark good authorities omit the "and fasting. '
While we admit that the twenty-first verse of Matthew is probably an interpolation from Mark, we are persuaded that the "and fasting" of Mark's text is genuine. The difficulty of explaining this declaration of Jesus seems to have occasioned its omission from the codices.
In the first place, Jesus places the great fundamental defect of the Apostles to have consisted in weakness of faith. As Matthew records, faith as a grain of mustard seed would move mountains. This sentence must not be taken literally. The grain of mustard seed is chosen as a symbol of a very small quantity of any entity. The casting of a mountain into the sea is a figure to express a mighty achievement high above the natural powers of man.
It is absurd to take in the literal sense the Lord's declaration concerning the removal of the mountain, and then to try to find evidence of such miracles in the lives of the saints of God. Thus it is narrated in the life of St. Gregory, Bishop of Neocæsarea, that he removed a mountain far enough to give him room for the erection of a church. The narration may or may not be true. It has no necessary bearing on the present Gospel. The Lord spoke figuratively, employing the concrete figure of the removal of a mountain to represent an
effect in the highest degree impossible to human power. The argument proceeds a fortiori. So acceptable to God is faith that the least degree of faith that is really faith is sufficient to accomplish the greatest effects. How much the more therefore will a greater degree of this real faith operate?
These words should make all men shudder. There is a certain amount in the world of something that men call faith, but it is not real faith. It is not even in the estimation of a mustard seed that faith which merits from Jesus the name of faith.
Certainly our Lord employs these striking words to exalt the excellence of faith. The purest diamond, even though it be no larger than the head of a pin, is worth more than a thousand tons of common rock. So it is with faith. Strong faith is the pearl of great price, which few possess. Verily do we possess faith even as a mustard seed! How much the Lord has spoken of faith? What a prominent place it occupied in his preaching? And how do we prize it? If we have this world's riches, the thought of their possession gives us contentment. There is joy in the consciousness of having something. But do we ever think of the value of our possession of faith? Few are they who go through the course of the full span of human life with undimmed faith. We breathe the atmosphere of a world which holds a deadly enmity to our faith. And this world is ever near us. Our old nature clings to the world and loves it. Without effort we cleave to created things. Faith is of something higher, of something that we do not rise up to without effort.
Among all our natural possessions we love life above every other temporal good. So in the supernatural order faith is the greatest of all things, for it is the principle of life in that order. We are identified with the supernatural order by faith, and the measure of our living faith is the measure of our standing in that order. It is but natural that we should endeavor to increase our possession of a thing of such great value. We can not do this alone: faith is a gift of God. "If any man shall say that without the preceding inspiration of the Holy Spirit and without the Holy Spirit's help a man can believe, hope, love, or repent, as is necessary in order that he
be justified, let him be anathema."--Conc. Trid. Can. III. De Just. We can not accomplish it alone, but with God's help we can dispose our hearts, so that God will give faith abundantly. We learn a man's principles; we learn his inner nature by being much with him. God by being much with God.
So we learn the things of Not that we see God, but by We can
the power of the soul we can commune with God. in a way that no words can describe penetrate into that realm of God, the true country of our soul. The man who seeks God with a clean, humble, honest soul will be led by the spirit of God into an understanding of the things of God which is above human analysis. The action of God is continually developing faith and the other virtues in that soul. Such a man holds to the supernatural order as more real than the things which he sees with his eyes. His touch is light on the things of time: he rests in the security of his eternal life with Christ.
Many men wish to enjoy this world to the full here, and also to have whatever may lie beyond this life. But this is not faith; this is the folly of trying to serve God and Mammon
It is certainly hard to explain what the Lord means by declaring that this kind can come out by nothing save by prayer and fasting. Prayer and fasting do not exclude faith. Hence there would be no contradiction in saying that the Apostles failed in faith, even in dealing with a case that required prayer and fasting. Faith remained the great fundamental cause of such healing, and prayer and fasting were the methods by which it operated. But yet a mystery remains. By the terms "this kind" does the Lord mean all demons that operate in demoniacal possession? If such be his meaning, then the sense of his words is that, for the expulsion of these, faith must employ prayer and fasting. Some authorities hold that the demon which possessed the boy belonged to a special class of demons, to expel which prayer and fasting were necessary. But we can not persuade ourselves that such difference existed in demoniacal possession, that prayer and fasting were needed only for one species of demon. It seems far more probable to us that Jesus recommended three remedies for the cure of the demonized, faith, prayer and fasting.
As Jesus and his disciples came down from Cæsarea Philippi, they passed through Galilee. The minds of the disciples were filled with the strange events which had taken place. Jesus knowing their thoughts declares unto them that he must die by the hands of men, and that after three days he shall arise again.
According to Luke the Saviour declared: "Let these words sink into your ears: for the Son of Man shall be delivered up into the hands of men.' The term word is here employed in the sense of the Hebrew, to designate a thing or event.
The Lord would have the impression made by the events fix itself so in the minds of his Apostles that, when the awful day of atonement came, they might know that it was the Son of God who died on the cross. But they could not understand the full significance of Jesus' words then. A certain awe kept them from questioning more. This was in accordance with the divine plan. The veil was not to be lifted entirely until the day when they could go forth and preach to the world Christ who died, and who is arisen from the grave. In that full light all the Master's words became plain, and had their effect, and they preached them to others, and thus they laid the foundations of the Church.
The fact must not escape us that Jesus wished to hide himself from the people in his journey through Galilee. The cause is evident. He wished to avoid the praise and admiration of the people which would be produced by the cure of the demonized boy.
MATT. XVII. 24-27
24. And when they were come to Capharaum, they that received the half-shekel came to Peter, and said: Doth not your master pay the half-shekel? He saith: Yea.
25. And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke first to him saying: What thinkest thou, Simon? the kings of the
24. Ελθόντων δὲ αὐτῶν εἰς Καφαρναούμ, προσῆλθον οἱ oi τὰ δίδραχμα λαμβάνονες τῷ Πέτρῳ, καὶ εἶπαν: Ο διδάσκαλος ὑμῶν οὐ τελεῖ τὰ δίδραχμα; λέγει: Ναί.
25. Καὶ ἐλθόντα εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν, προέφθασεν αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγων: Τί δοκεῖ, Σίμων; οἱ βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς ἀπό τίνος λαμβάνουσιν τέλη,
earth, from whom do they receive toll or tribute? from their sons, or from strangers?
26. And when he said: From strangers, Jesus said unto him: Therefore the sons are free.
27. But, lest we cause them to stumble, go thou to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a shekel: take that, and give unto them for me and thee.
ἢ κήνσον; ἀπὸ τῶν υἱῶν αὐτῶν, ἢ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀλλοτρίων;
26. Εἰπόντος δέ:
27. Ἵνα δὲ μὴ σκανδαλίσωμεν αὐτοὺς, πορευθεὶς εἰς θάλασσαν βάλε ἄγκιστρον, καὶ τὸν ἀναβάντα πρῶτον ἰχθὺν ἄρον καὶ ἀνοίξας τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ, εὑρήσεις στατῆρα: ἐκεῖνον λαβὼν, δὸς αὐτοῖς ἀντὶ ἐμοῦ καὶ σοῦ.
In the twenty-fifth verse B has arò Tívos. lowed by the Armenian and Ethiopian versions.
This is fol
of Jerusalem, Chrysostom, Hilary, Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort approve ἀπὸ τίνων.
Jesus and his band of Apostles came down to Capharnaum and entered into a house. Most probably it is Peter's house. While the Lord is within the house, Peter goes forth and is accosted by the tax-gatherers. They ask him whether the Master will pay the half-shekel. They were deterred by the august majesty of the Lord from approaching him in person, hence they direct their demand to Peter, the head of the apostolic band, and chief representative of Christ.
There is some uncertainty as to what tax is here meant by the half-shekel. St. Jerome, Bede, Rhabanus Maurus, Paschasius, Albertus Magnus, St. Thomas, Dionysius the Carthusian, Faber, Jansenius, Maldonatus, à Lapide, Barradius and Sylveira believed that it was the tribute due to Cæsar,
This is very improbable. The name of the coin is Jewish; and the manner in which the demand was made to Peter clearly shows that the collectors were not agents of the Roman domination. The manner in which the claim is presented clearly shows that there is no authority back of it. Now, had it been a question of a Roman tax, it would have been exacted without any regard to even the Messiah's personality. Moreover, Christ's response to Peter is evidence that the tax in question was collected for the temple. Hence, we conclude
(5) Gosp. III.