The Gospel reading from Matthew today teaches us some very important lessons about Christianity and our society.

You have often heard in church, that our faith is a community, a family, a people moving together from earth to an eternal life together in heaven.

Today Jesus is telling us that the only way to understand this is through “prayer and fasting.” We should meditate on this.

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Since Adam and Eve, and as long as there were people on earth, there has always been evil in the world, wars, pandemics, poverty, hunger, refugees, illness and death. All kinds of good people have been trying to help to solve these problems but there is never an end to the problems.

The disciples of Jesus put this problem to Him. Why could they not cure the sick child. The father of the sick child also wants to know why the disciples could not help.  He turns to Jesus to cure the boy.

Jesus says, “Bring him to me”. This request of Jesus is not only to the father of the child but to all the people of the world, “come to Me”. We are all in this together. It is only unity and faith in Christ which will solve the problem to underline this point, Jesus asks the father, “Do you believe?”  When the boy is cured, the disciples go to Jesus and ask, “Why could we not expel it?” Jesus replies, “This kind does not leave but by prayer and fasting”.

The coronavirus teaches us that one person can’t solve the crises, but it needs all of us, the whole city, the whole country to work at it together. Quarantines are a form of fasting.

You might be surprised by this answer because in our modern world  we solve problems with a plan and action.

Prayer and fasting is not the modern solution. Our prayers are associated with personal requests, i.e. for healing, to keep or find a job etc. We may fast to do penance so as to make God happy with us.

This is not what Jesus is talking about. The church does not talk about prayer and fasting in that way either. Jesus taught us how to pray. He told us to say, “Our Father”, “Give us”. “Forgive us”, not “My Father”, “Give me”, “Forgive me”.

A Christian prayer is community minded in nature. We can’t be happy if there are unhappy people around us. We pray for everyone.

The same is true of fasting. It is not there to show people how pious we are. Rather, we fast and by giving up certain important elements of life (food) to teach us that we must train and discipline ourselves to see that we are part of a community, family or church. Fasting is the training we need to open our eyes in faith to all our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We can’t be happy if there are unhappy people around us. We pray for everyone.

Prayer and Fasting do not exist to make us more acceptable to God, but rather to keep us to turn our attention from ourselves and our love of the world, to God. To see that the Church as the Body of Christ in this world.

The coronavirus teaches us that one person can’t solve the crises, but it needs all of us, the whole city, the whole country to work at it together. Quarantines are a form of fasting.

We all can say, “I believe”, Help my unbelief”.

Bishop Peter Stasiuk C.Ss.R. AM

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