Updated: Oct 1
We hear mostly about the depth of faith and how that comes into action in the readings of this weekend. Like the disciples in the gospel, we will need to say to Christ, “Increase our faith.” The focus is on the quality of faith, not necessarily its quantity that matters. A quality faith believes and can move mountain. God plants enough faith in each person, just that we have to fan our faith into flame, put it to sufficient use. The prophet Habakkuk from the first reading shows that there can be a stretch of faith. The picture of violence (chamas) is what the prophet sees, oppression and destruction which lead him to question, “How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry to you, “Violence!” but you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin, why must I look at misery?” (Hab. 1:2) The prophet is unable to get his desired response to the situation but in the end, he realizes that there is no need to hurry when dealing with God. Instead, that the Lord is dependable and fulfils his promises at his time.
The parable of the mustard seed in the gospel demands quality faith. The mustard seed is significantly small in size, yet Jesus uses it. In Matthew’s gospel, Christ takes on that image to explain that things can start really small but grow into greatness if rooted in God. But in Luke’s gospel as read today, he uses the mustard seed as a metaphor to challenge the disciples. Faith can only be measured by its expression because it relates directly to God. Jesus’ response to the question by his disciples to increase their faith is significant. Don’t they have faith already? How then can their faith be increased? Jesus challenges them to a deeper introspection of their spiritual endowment. Faith can only be increased if it relies absolutely on God. The mustard seed-faith is faith that does not depend on its size but relies on the power of God. The mustard seed-faith believes it can move even the great things around as long as God has willed it.
Of course, the disciples of Jesus come from various background -fishermen, tax collectors, men of ordinary means, and some with revolutionary mindsets. Just as they come from different environments, so their faith could differ in depth. Their meeting point is Jesus. They watch him perform miracles, observe him teach, see him absolve and forgive sins. They are startled at the volume of works emanating from him, demons and evil spirits obeying him. People from different parts of Judea, Jerusalem, Decapolis, are coming to him for healing. Certainly, these disciples want to do what their Master is doing or even do more. They hear him talk about his Father. They are intrigued. They request him to increase their faith.
Jesus reminds them that if their faith is as little as the mustard seed, it would uproot the mulberry tree. The mulberry tree is huge in size when compared to the mustard seed. So, Jesus is telling the disciples that a significantly small amount of faith is all they need to make great things happen because as the prophet said, the just one shall live by faith. It does not matter what the size of the faith is, rather that the quality of faith. Just the smallest element of faith can make things happen, move the great trees, and shake mountains to their foundation.
From this gospel, what matters is the level of our commitment in God. The disciples wrongly think they need a large-sized faith to function. And what does that mean to them? Maybe a faith as big as their master’s? Paul reminds us in the letter to the Romans that “God has given to each one his measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3). And for that reason he wrote, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully” (Rom. 12:6-8). We all can do immense things if we walk by faith. We do not have to compete in what we do in relation to our faith, rather complete each other by bringing our faith into action for the sake of the gospel.
Perhaps, take a moment and think about the saints for example. How did they live their lives? Clearly, their gift of faith was different but the saints expressed it through recognizing the power of God, that faith is a constant journey with God through the entire life of the believer. We can't stop growing in faith until we die. Mother Teresa used her faith differently from Pope John Paul 11. St. Francis was different from St. John Vianney. St. Padre Pio was different from St. Ignatius of Loyola. St. Mary Magdalene was different from St. Peter. Every saint understood the rich trust of faith with the help of the Holy Spirit and fanned into flame through good works and holiness of life. They realized that faith blossoms through openness to the divine will.
is your faith right now? Struggling or flourishing? Thriving or managing? Obviously, our family upbringing, environmental circumstances, and associations in life can affect our faith and how it develops. But God has called us to believe in him, no matter what we experience. Keep praying and keep believing. Remember that God has called you to service through either your vocation or profession and that's the way you will make or miss heaven. For example, if you're a teacher, that's where you're called to express your faith. Teach as a believer and a witness to the truth of Christ. If you're a barber, that's your opportunity to make heaven. If you're a business person, it's through business and how you do it that you'll answer to God. Same goes with politicians, pharmacists, doctors, nuns, priests, and everyone. Couples have to express their faith as married persons, possibly as parents, and as leaders and guides to their children. Your faith must therefore be evident in what you do and where you serve. How are you doing with that? What is the quality of your faith? Are you bearing witness to Christ by that?
Today, Jesus wants us to identify that even what we consider a small faith is remarkably great and that you can do great works with it. Has your faith ever been challenged or been threatened because of your environment? Has it been pushed around? What is your response? Maybe you’re like the first part of the prophet Habakkuk, asking questions, why is the Lord’s silent? Jesus is telling you that you don’t have to be a Mother Teresa or a St. Jerome to do something wonderful. He has given you enough. Use it to glorify Him. Keep it strong. God is looking for an expression of a responsive faith, not a sizeable faith. Go ahead and ask God for the strength to maintain that quality faith that He has given you. Pray and believe always. God makes all things happen, only if you believe.
Readings: 1st- Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4; 2nd- 2 Tim. 1:6-8, 13-14; Gospel- Lk. 17:5-10