By St. John of Kronstadt
Today, beloved brothers and sisters, was read the Gospel passage from the Evangelist Mark on how a father asked Jesus Christ to heal his son, a deaf and dumb child who was possessed, by casting out the evil spirit who was the reason the child was deaf and dumb. ‘Deaf and dumb spirit,’ said the Lord to the impure one, ‘I command you, come out of him and enter him no more.’ Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose (Mark 9:25–27). But see how evil was the spirit who tormented the child. His father told the Lord how wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid (Mark 9:18). This happened also at the time when the father brought his son to the Saviour. And when the Lord asked the father, as if he did not already know, even though, as God, He knows all, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him,’ and he asked the Lord to have compassion on him and his son, and to help them, if He can do anything. Jesus told him: ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ And the unfortunate father of little faith cried out with tears ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:21–24).
Do you see what power the Lord attributes to faith and to the one who believes? 'All things are possible to him who believes,' He says. The one who believes is able to cast out demons and to heal all kinds of diseases. And how powerless and miserable is the unbeliever! He cannot even control himself, and cannot overcome his own sins, but as a slave he serves them and is tormented by them. And as the unfortunate father initially brought his possessed son to the Apostles and they were not able to expel this demon from him, they asked the Lord in private why they were not able to expel him. The Lord answered them: 'This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting' (Mark 9:29). Such is the Lord’s praise for prayer and fasting. This is the evangelical basis for fasting. How could those who call themselves followers of the Gospel have expelled fasting from our common life, as if it was unnecessary?! Is it not because in our days passions and iniquity and demonic possessions of all kinds have multiplied, so much so that some Christians have broken their ties with the Church and have renounced prayer and fasting as something superfluous?
From Season of Repentance: Lenten Homilies of Saint John of Kronstadt.