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When we just can’t: A Gospel lesson

Rafael Transfiguration


Fr. Luigi Maria Epicoco - published on 02/20/23

The failure of Jesus' disciples echoes our own failures, in faith and in love.

Today’s readings can be found here. Read Fr. Epicoco’s brief reflections on the daily Mass readings, Monday through Saturday, here. For Sunday Mass reading commentary from Fr. Rytel-Andrianik, see here.

The miracle recounted in today’s Gospel is born out of a father’s despair. His son is imprisoned by evil. He tried to get help from Jesus’ disciples, but they failed. And so, finally, the boy arrives to Jesus himself: “Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”

Let us take a moment to think about how Jesus’ disciples failed. Their failure echoes our own. How often we experience that we are utterly unable to change anything ­– whether as individuals or as church.

But when this happens, we should not feel guilty or frustrated. We just need to remember that the smartest thing to do is ask Jesus to take things in his own hands. To believe does not mean one has to rise to the challenge, but that one trusts God completely. 

There is another noteworthy element in today’s Gospel; namely, the dialogue between Jesus and the boy’s father.

“’If you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’”

The miracle can only happen if the person asking for it believes that Jesus can do it. But who among us has such faith? This man’s sincere profession of faith teaches us a great lesson. We could somehow rephrase it: “I would like to believe, but you help me to truly believe.”

Jesus has performed two miracles: He strengthens the man’s faith and frees his son from evil. His prayer could become our prayer today.


Father Luigi Maria Epicoco is a priest of the Aquila Diocese and teaches Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and at the ISSR ‘Fides et ratio,’ Aquila. He dedicates himself to preaching, especially for the formation of laity and religious, giving conferences, retreats and days of recollection. He has authored numerous books and articles. Since 2021, he has served as the Ecclesiastical Assistant in the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and columnist for the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

DiscipleshipGospelLiturgyMassPrayerSpiritual Life
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