Today’s Gospel story is repeated in three different Gospels, Mark, Matthew, Luke. It is important!

From the beginning of the world, from Adam and Eve, there has been evil in the world, and this in so many different forms, poverty, hunger, wars, refugees, sicknesses, and death. Philosophers, economists, politicians, doctors, world leaders, and even religious leaders, struggle with this problem each day. Our human race has managed to make some progress in the quality of life, but evil still seems to be overwhelming.

The disciples get together and try to heal a sick boy, but they cannot. The father finally goes to Jesus, who heals the boy. The disciples are disturbed by the fact that they could not do anything for the boy. They ask, “why could we not help the boy?” Jesus gives a quick and definite answer. “The only way to defeat this kind of evil is through prayer and fasting.”

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The disciples are bewildered, as we might be as well. Lots of people “pray and fast”, and still there is much evil around. Perhaps there is a different kind of prayer and fasting that is needed. We usually pray that God will give us something we need, and we might fast so that God will love us. Is there something missing?

Actually, our Ukrainian Catholic Church, knows what Jesus is talking about. We should listen and learn.

Of all the public prayers we use in the church books throughout the whole year, the church does not pray in these words, “My Father, give me, forgive me”. It is never a prayer for us as a person. We pray for everybody as a community and ask God to solve our common problems. We use these kinds of words,  “Our Father, give us, forgive us”.

There is only one prayer, the prayer of St Efraim, a prayer our Church now uses all over the world after liturgies during lent. We used to sing the verse. (“You have suffered”). St Efraim’s prayer is for us personally, but only in the context that we should always be in communion with others when we pray.

Our prayers in church are always for the salvation of the world, our parish, our community, our family, but never for ourselves. The evil spirit teaches to think only of ourselves. Our fasting is also a form of praying for everyone so that we can think of others first.

Evil is only overcome when we are converted to Christ, and the whole community lives in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

You may think that what I am saying is only a small thing and that this form of prayer will make no difference. The world is not saved by the conversion of one person, but we pray for a general conversion of all in our society and then we live in that faith.

Our prayer and fasting does make a change in the world. In our Christian life, we can notice that when a group of people are God centred, they make a difference. We can talk in this context about a Christian country, a Christian village, a Christian family, and a Christian parish. We know and appreciate when a group of people are God “centred”.

Today’s culture ties to destroy these dedicated Christian communities, and as that happens there is more evil in the world, but Jesus does teach us that “only by prayer and fasting” will that form of evil go away. It’s not easy, but God is with us.

Bishop Peter Stasiuk C.Ss.R. AM