by Rev. Vinod Victor
The Setting: The transfiguration experience was an extra-ordinary encounter for the three disciples. After marveling at the revelation of the glory of Jesus they opted to stay up in the mountain. However Jesus was clear that his mission had a journey ahead, that too a difficult one. He embarked on a walk down the hill and there saw his disciples in a jiffy with a crowd. A burdened father had brought his son to Jesus to be healed of a possession and since Jesus was up in the mountain he had asked his disciples for help. But they could do nothing.
Jesus enters into a conversation with the father and realizes the gravity of the issue. The man pleaded, If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus responded, “If you can! All things are possible for those who believe.” The father cried, “I believe; help my unbelief”. Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and in a dramatic exit as the spirit leaves the boy is left like a corpse. Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him, and he arose into the joys and adventures of a life in all its fullness.
The commission to discipleship is a call that is crystal clear, “I am sending you as the Father has sent me”. This sending therefore involves being with Christ, teaching, healing and transforming lives. Discipleship is a call to transformation. The basic reality that Jesus notes in the suffering child is the violation of his human dignity and his right to live a full life.
An enjoyable childhood and a secure future is the right of every child. This involves right to home, right to shelter, right to education, right to entertainment, right to health, right to information, right to dignity and right to blossom. However it remains a stark reality that many buds today are being squeezed too early thus preventing them blossoming. The challenge of discipleship or rather that of a concerned humanity is to seek ways and means to ensure the full blossoming of these buds.
The Sitz in laben: I was recently asked to take over the responsibility of the Department of Social and Justice Concerns of my diocese. Of the manifold involvements that our parents had embarked on, the greatest concern seems to be for children in the peripheries. They were keen on having Orphanages to ensure that children who did not have the privilege of parenthood did not loose out in life. The doors of the Children’s Homes were always open to those children pushed into the margins by poverty, war and social maladies. They took keen interest in the children of the victimized like the children of prisoners, the detrimentally sick, the refugees and the like. They were keen on the well being of children in the streets. They opened up their doors for the physically and mentally challenged, evinced special interest in children who were congenitally sick. They envisaged Child Focused Community Development Programmes. Justice and Peace were the core of each of their involvements.
In order to ensure Justice and Peace they affirmed the basic dignity and human rights can be affirmed only by ensuring proper education. Early Childhood Care programmes were centered around an educational facility, the nursery and primary education was seen with prime importance because it was therein the seeds of the future were nurtured. School education and Higher education was pursued with utmost care from the realization that one major factor that left people struggling in the margins and peripheries as victims and the hunted was their denial of access to proper education. They embarked on an education mission establishing schools accessible for the ordinary in the nooks and corners of their reach. Though the primary focus was on early childhood care and basic education, the ambit of their reach went all the way to technical and professional educational involvements.
By education they did not mean “banking of information”. They were clear education is bringing out the real potential and possibility inherent in each person so that they in tandem with the talent of the neighborhood and the balance of nature would do wonders to make this world a haven where justice flows like an overflowing stream. They were keen in “mission” involvements in war torn areas and called them “schools for peace”. They were sure that ensuring education is ensuring a secure future for communities.
A biblical search for a paradigm that would define the educational involvement of a generation could find a meaningful text to dialogue with in the story of the healing down the mountain. The Spirit that had possessed the young child had five important traits that are being reflected in manifold ways even today in a generation that is living around us. Our understanding of “spirit possession” might have been scientifically re-oriented but the impact that the “evil” had on the child is seen manifest in graver forms in another generation of children around us.
A spirit that makes him mute (v.17): Silencing a generation is a stark reality today. Forces of globalization and the global market which do not regard human values have made a generation unable to talk or respond. With all claims of sophisticated communication gadgets the basic communication within families is breaking down. Children are not able to communicate with their parents. In the technologically networked world however the soothing joy of a spoken word is missing. The response of generations for justice and peace are often being branded as terrorism, the cry for democracy is termed dissidence and the noise made for their rights is rubbished as immaturity. Perhaps with turbulence within a generation is choosing to be silent. There is a lot of distrust within and among communities.
A spirit that throws him down (v.18). Whenever the spirit seized him it throws him down and he foams and grinds its teeth and becomes rigid. A generation who must be up and running enjoying the realities of life are being seized and thrown drown. In the grave pain they foam within. Victims of war and war crimes, victims of rape and sexual abuse, victims of domestic violence, victims of community violence, victims of socially conceived diseases... the list can keep going on. A generation is grinding their teeth in pain, agony and tears.
A spirit that convulses (v.20). As soon the spirit was confronted by Jesus it convulsed him or rather it parched him. This parching is seen in manifold forms even today. When light tries to confront darkness throws a tantrum. This parching could be physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, social or even cultural. This is manifest in a sense of emptiness where life turns out to be mechanical and painful. A generation is falling into depression, emotions are transcending the borders of control, cultural alienation is devastating relationships, spirituality is being commercialized and relationships are being gauged in market terminology.
The result of all these is convulsion that sometimes is not caught in the ordinary eye. Look again, and lo and behold we see lives being parched as if in a desert to which molten lava flows down. This volcanic living could have serious repercussions on the way the communities are today being constructed.
A spirit that seeks to destroy (v.22). The spirit often cast him to fire and into water to destroy him. And this fire still remains a stark reality to live with. In forms of country bombs and localized version of terrorism many in the generation next are being attracted to fire. It takes huge shapes in the form of nuclear threats and global wars where sophisticated arms that spew fire are being used harshly at hapless human beings. Nuclear reactors are unable to stand the pushing in tsunamis of water and the resultant radiation is a cause of concern for many. Fire and Water continues to destroy generations. Climatic variations offer clear warning signals and no one seems to be taking the cue. They are emitting more fire, they are wanting more of the generations to be destroyed by fire.
A spirit that is deaf (v.25). Warning signals are made as clear and loud as possible. No one seems to be hearing. Drugs, Alcohol and modern vices are declaring themselves that “We are Injurious”, but that seems to be falling in deaf ears. The groaning of the victims of human negligence of the past should ideally be warning signals for the future. But no one seem listening. An inexplicable deafness seem to have affected the world, specially a new generation. The cries for justice that is emanating from across the globe, the deep anguish within that is declaring forth the pain in which people who are hunted suffer and the sheer agony of poverty and homelessness of the refugee and internally displaced are not being heard by anyone at all. This is maddening deafness.
The Way Ahead: Can we do something about the situation? The prayer of the father was a candid reflection of the limitations of human imaginings. He asked Jesus “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us”. Jesus wanted to stretch the man’s horizons of faith and therefore said, “If you can?”. This is absurd if you realize the potentials and possibilities of the divine. “All things are possible for the one who believes”.
Does it mean that All buds Can One Day Truly Blossom? Yes, it exactly means so. Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit saying “Come out of him and never enter him again”. The spirit had no option. Despite the dramatics that left the boy nearly like the dead the evil spirit had to leave. Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up and HE AROSE.
Disciples were candid in their query why could we not cast it out and Jesus said, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting. What then is fasting, “Is not this the fast that I choose, to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free and to break every yoke.” (Is 58:6).
In the modern world the best means of making this possible is through education, by ensuring education is affirmed as a basic human right and by making sure that every child has access to meaningful education.