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There are about a half dozen accounts in the Gospels wherein our Lord healed a child or the close associate of someone who approached Him, asking for the cure of the sick person. In today’s account it was the son of an official at Capharnaum. Everyone knows the story of the Centurion: “Speak but the word and my boy will be healed.” You have heard the story about Jesus waking the daughter of Jairus from the dead,  and doing likewise for the son of the Widow at Naim. Another Gospel tells of a boy possessed by a devil whom the Apostles could not cast out—apparently because they did not pray and fast enough.
In all of these cases except one, there appears to be a question of faith being required on the part of the person requesting the miracle. The exception was the Widow of Naim—but, in fact, she did not request Jesus’ intervention, for He acted on His own initiative—perhaps because her plight reminded Him of the situation with which He would leave His own Blessed Mother—a widow with no Son.
In today’s Gospel there is a sort of complaint by our Lord: “Unless you see signs and wonders, you believe not.” It doesn’t appear to a criticism of the ruler who requested the healing of his son—for that seems to be an act of faith in itself—and the complaint is in the plural—grammatically, the “you” refers to a number of people, not just the ruler.
In the case of Jairus, the ruler of the Synagogue, his request is clearly one of a man of faith: “Lord, my daughter is even now dead; but come, lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.” One does not go about, asking people to resurrect the dead, unless one has a fair degree of faith! And, when our Lord arrives, our Lord says to the little girl only: “Fear not, only believe.”
On another occasion, when He was asked to heal the Centurion’s servant, and heard the man’s statement about “Just speaking the word and my boy will be healed,” He knew that He was hearing a statement of complete belief in His authority over the living and the dead—the Centurion’s faith, you will recall, was so great that he knew it was completely unnecessary for our Lord to visit boy in person—no need to waste the time of such a great authority. And our Lord recognized that He had not seen a faith as great as this anywhere in Israel—there was hope, indeed, of salvation for the gentiles.
Yet another Gospel reading has a man bringing his son who is possessed of an evil spirit to Jesus. Since his youth, the devil has thrown the boy down to the ground, foaming at the mouth, casting him into the fire and into the water in an attempt to destroy him. Our Lord’s response is in the plural again, directed to the crowd, not to the boy’s father: “O incredulous generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? Bring him unto me.” “O incredulous generation”—O unbelieving people! After getting some detail about the illness, our Lord told the father: “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth”—and the father responded with what probably ought to be the most memorable answer to our Lord in the New Testament: “I do believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.”
What a marvelous piece of humble honesty. Belief in God and what He has revealed is not always very easy. The man in this last account may have heard stories about Jesus and His ability to cure the sick, but up to this point they remained, for him, just stories. Many of the things we are asked to believe are far from our personal experience, and may be invisible and imperceptible.
Some simply refuse to believe, arrogantly placing themselves above and beyond God, claiming that they know better than to believe in something that they have never seen before—that modern man must be more sophisticated than to believe in “medieval tales.”
Others will believe anything ... as long as it is ridiculous—the more foolish the better. “A few gods are better than one,” they may reason, or they may walk around with a plethora of lucky charms to deal with every possible situation. These are the people who, if they are nominally Christians, will foolishly boast about the greatness of their personal faith.
So much more realistic—so much more Christian is the man who says: “I do believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.” Faith is a virtue of the intellect, but it is not something we learn in school, and not something that we can get out of books. Faith is a gift of God; the first of the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity). It is a gift of God bestowed on us when we enter the state of sanctifying grace. For those who are baptized as adults it precedes even the Sacrament of Baptism, making it possible for us to accept the role of a Christian believer.
Study is a good thing, and we can never know enough about the truths of our religion—but such study will be unfruitful, and even burdensome, if we approach it without sanctifying grace. So we must ever be ready to say “I do believe, Lord. Help my unbelief” while seeking His help to remain in the state of sanctifying grace. We can pray and we can meditate on the love and the truths of God, any time of the day and no matter where we may find ourselves. We are privileged to live where frequent Confession and daily Communion are at least possible—in other places, people are not so lucky, and we may not always be so fortunate ourselves—so it is wise to take advantage of those opportunities as often as we have them.
“Walk with care ... making the most of your time, for the days are evil”—for the days are short. “I do believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.”
 Epistle: Ephesians v: 15-21.
 Gospel: John iv: 46-53.
 Gospel: 3rd Sunday after Epiphany, Matthew viii: 1-13.
 Gospel: 23rd Pentecost, Matthew ix: 18-26; Mark v: 22-43.
 Gospel: 15 Pentecost, Luke vii: 11-16.
 Gospel: Ember Wednesday in September, Mark ix: 14-27.
 John iv: 48.
 Matthew ix: 18.
 Mark v: 36.
 Cf. Matthew viii: 8.
 Mark ix: 18
 Mark ix: 22-23.