Faith and Mustard Seeds

Faith and Mustard Seeds

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4

2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14

Luke 17:5-10

Immediately before today's Gospel reading, Jesus told the apostles how frequently and fully they were required to forgive others.

"If your fellow Christian commits a sin, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. And if they commit a sin against you seven times a day, and seven times come back to you saying 'I repent', you will forgive them. And the apostles said to the Lord: 'Increase our faith!'" Lk 17:4-5

It is really difficult to forgive the really big stuff, the things that hurt so deeply and leave such deep scars. We need to believe that forgiveness really is the way of the kingdom. It means also that each one of us must have faith that God's forgiveness of us is truly real; faith in the fact that forgiveness brings us closer to the ones we love and actually does heal our wounds.

But Jesus seems to be saying "if you had any faith at all you could do impossible things -- so it's not that you need more faith, some faith would be good!"

We can all dream about the possibilities of faith. "Someday, when I finally have that mustard seed, I'll really be able to do something."

It's easy to think that we must get everything in order first, and then we can get down to the real work.

Trouble is, if we wait to put all our ducks in a row before we start to be better people then we'll never get anything done because our ducks will never line up properly. They like to wander all over the lawn, and we don't have the energy to chase them down.

"See how he flags, he whose soul is not at rights, but the upright man will live by his faithfulness" Hab 1:4

However, help is at hand. If we look below the surface to the Greek in today's Gospel it actually says "if you had faith, and you do" The apostles, then, already have faith, and we need to believe that we have, and the people around us, have.

"God's gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord….. bear the hardship of the Good News, relying on the power of God." 2 Tim 1:7

The reality that Jesus points out to us is that by God's grace we have already been given faith. So, if you had the right faith (and you do!), you would be the person you always knew you should be? How then, would you exercise your duty of faith, of stewardship, to others?

Moving on to the second part of today's Gospel. This is a really difficult saying. It implies that God is not satisfied with our efforts. "Why should I praise or thank you? You only did what was required." That isn't a good model for family life or for being a healthy community of faith. Even though we want to serve only out of selfless motives, the reality is that we all appreciate being appreciated. That's not a bad thing. It is simply the way human beings work. We look for reward and praise, but these shouldn't be our motivation for living as disciples of Jesus.

Perhaps Luke meant for us to see that the extravagant forgiveness demanded by Jesus is not so extravagant after all. It is simply our duty. God has given us the grace and faith to forgive as He forgives, and so we are not only capable of it, but we are required to do it!

Jesus is asking each one of us today for our complete selves, our complete devotion and our complete faithfulness. "Lord, I do believe - help my unbelief!"

(C) Bob Birtles 2009