Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Healing the Demon-Seized Boy

Raphael ~ Section of The Transfiguration

This painting is part of a much larger and well-known painting of the Transfiguration by the Renaissance artist, Raphael. The larger piece is of the Apostles, Peter, James and John, over-whelmed by Christ's brightness on the mountaintop, with Moses and Elijah in conversation. We find this little sub-scene at the bottom of the image: as Jesus and his friends descend the mountain, they meet the father of a demon-seized child, hoping for the boy's release. 

It is a very moving scene, isn't it? The dad's face is full of anxiety and anticipation as he holds up the boy who is flailing about. Is that the boy's mother, who points to her son, looking to Jesus, expectantly? Other stressed-out relatives and neighbors surround the desperate family, calling out for Jesus to help. Here is the Gospel account.

When they came back to the disciples they saw a large crowd surrounding them and lawyers arguing with them. As soon as they saw Jesus the whole crowd were overcome with awe, and they ran forward to welcome him. He asked them, 'What is this argument about?" A man in the crowd spoke up: "Master, I brought my son to you. He is possessed by a spirit which makes him speechless. Whenever it attacks him, it dashes him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and goes rigid. I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they failed. Jesus answered: "What an unbelieving and perverse generation! How long shall I be with you? How long must I endure you? Bring him to me." So they brought the boy to him, and as soon as the spirit saw him it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell on the ground and rolled about foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked his father, "How long has he been like this? "From childhood," he replied, "Often it has tried to make an end of him by throwing him into the fire or into water. But if it is at all possible for you, take pity upon us and help us." "If it is possible?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible to one who has faith." "I have faith," cried the boy's father; help me where faith falls short." Jesus saw then that the crowd was closing in upon them so he rebuked the unclean spirit, "Deaf and dumb spirit," he said, "I command you, come out of him and never go back!"After crying aloud and racking him fiercely, it came out, and the boy looked like a corpse; in fact, many said, "He is dead." But Jesus took his hand and raised him to his feet, and he stood up. Then Jesus went indoors, and his disciples asked him privately, "Why could not we cast it out?" He said, "There is no means of casting out this sort but prayer."  Mark 9:14-29

As Jesus and the disciples arrive at the bottom of the Glory-Mountain the waiting crowd surges towards Jesus. "Runs forward" the gospel tells us. And they were "overcome with awe." And they "welcome Jesus." Can you feel the excitement? It makes me wonder if Jesus is still shining as he was at the top of the mountain or was there some remnant of his white-brightness that stuns the crowd. The attractiveness of Jesus. 

The father describes what's going on with the boy: it dashes him to the ground.  Poor boy. Poor parents who have to watch their children suffer. So many children suffer around the world. while their powerless parents can only watch and weep. But interiorly, can you name a time in your own life when you felt dashed to the ground?

Then there is this conversation the father and Jesus have about believing. I think the exchange is light-hearted; Jesus isn't being stern or indignant. "If it's possible," the dad asks with great courtesy. "Sure it's possible, if we believe," Jesus says. Sounds like Angel Gabriel in the conversation with Mary at the Annunciation: Sure it's possible! 

And Jesus doesn't reprimand because the dad admits faith is sometimes challenged or in short supply. We can imagine how vulnerable the parents felt - their child so tormented for so long and with no solution in sight. Jesus understands this and gives the gift of healing.

Then, when the boy is freed but left so weakened and down, people think he's dead, Jesus lifts the boy up, taking him by the hand. This is typical of Jesus all throughout Mark's Gospel accounts. Jesus, lifting up humankind. A hint of resurrection. How tender and solicitous. 

And Mark tells us that Jesus raised the boy to his feet. Can you name that place for yourself - when you were down-for-the-count and heaven restored you - put you back together or back on your feet? It's very wonderful.

Then finally, Jesus goes indoors and speaks to the disciples privately. Some folks only attend to the Gospel in the past tense. But the wonders of Jesus are for you and me as well, and NOW. Indoors means in our own interior lives - privately and personally. We don't even have to imagine what he said to them. What matters is what Jesus says to us. Each of us. Anything come to mind?


  1. There is so much to wonder about and say. I'm digesting it and thinking and don't know what to feel.

  2. "What to feel" "What to think" - this comes to us only out of silence.

  3. Everything is possible to one who has faith. Oh, how I want to believe in that. Sometimes I feel so tested and it is hard to keep faith strong. I wonder and hope it will make a difference in the after life because I am carrying this burden which is heavy while others seem to run carefree through life and we will all end up in the same place together. It would be easier to be a nonbeliever.

  4. "While others seem to run carefree through life..." The Dali Lama tells of being invited to the Penthouse of an extremely wealthy NY family who talked of owning a yacht, a second home, the best vehicles, who went on extravagant vacations, whose children went to the best schools... When he asked to use the bathroom he saw that the medicine cabinet was opened (maybe he peaked) and it was filled with prescription bottles for sedatives and anti-depressants. For all their stuff, this family was as burdened and challenged as the rest of us. And really how exhausting having to pretend through all the glitz that everything is alright. Woody Allen has a film field-day with this kind of pretend world.