The Art of the Possible
We worked this last Tuesday with the sentence, “Increase our faith” (Luke 5). It is the plea of the disciples.
Notice that they are already disciples. They already have the low form of faith, or belief in the ordinary sense. They already consider Jesus the messiah.
But they know that there is a kind of faith they lack. This faith is certainty: the perfect certainty of the Generative Mystery who arranged for a universe in the first place. Such faith is original in both senses of the term: from the beginning and creative.
The Zen idea that there is nothing to strive for and that you already have your full, realized Buddha nature from before your birth carries some of the same sense. It's an identity we have forgotten, a possession so fantastic we can't let ourselves know we have it, are it.
In another scene of healing, there is another plea about deficient faith addressed to Jesus. The story is told in Mark 9:
14 And when he came to his disciples, he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them. 15 And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him. 16 And he asked the scribes, What question ye with them? 17 And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; 18 And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. 19 He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me. 20 And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. 21 And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. 22 And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. 23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. 24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. 25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. 26 And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. 27 But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. 28 And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? 29 And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.
Here the plea comes from the boy’s father, and it is a strange one, deeply felt and spoken through tears: “I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” (Faith and belief are the same word in Greek).
It’s a paradoxical request. If he has it, why does he need help with its lack? Again, he has one kind or one degree of belief, but he knows his faith doesn’t have the power, perhaps doesn’t have the stamina, he needs. Jesus’s later comment to the disciples also suggests a kind of athleticism to the faith that can actually heal in this case: it takes "prayer and fasting" – some kind of intentional practice.
Our meditation next Tuesday will be the demanding phrase buried in this story (9:23):
All things are possible to him that believeth. (King James)
All possible to the believing. (word for word translation)
This challenges us because, whatever our beliefs, we tend not to find all things possible. How can we receive such a gift so that it flourishes into evidence?
All blessings to all,