Thursday, September 29, 2016

27th Sunday Year C (Gospel: Luke 17:5-10) The mustard seed

So many people I have met feel that they have very little faith, or they will tell me that they are not very religious. However, I think most people have far more faith than they give themselves credit for. Being ‘religious’ and having faith are not the same thing.

Today we are given the unusual image of something as tiny as a mustard seed, which is about the size of the tip of a pen. Jesus tells the Apostles that if their faith was even as big as that they could move mountains, or in this case a mulberry tree! There are two ways to look at this. First we could say, if it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains I must have very little faith at all since I could never do anything spectacular like that! But the other way to look at it is to say that with very little faith you can do an awful lot. Most of us do have faith and that faith grows as our relationship with Jesus grows. We often talk about God ‘testing our faith’ when we find ourselves going through a crisis. But by ‘testing’ I think what is meant is that God is stretching our faith to full capacity. It is not so much a test to see if we are up to standard, rather a time of growth. God knows what we are capable of and God is all the time helping us to reach our full potential. Remember how God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. God knew that Abraham had extraordinary faith, even though Abraham himself probably didn't realise it. But Abraham proved his faith by trusting in God even in this dire situation and God blessed him for it.

The Apostles had faith and must have seen extraordinary things when they were with Jesus. Peter even walked on water for a few seconds, but then he began to sink as he started to think in human terms that it couldn’t be happening. But even the Apostles had a lot to learn with regards faith. After the crucifixion of Jesus they hid themselves away in a room because they were afraid. It was only after they received the gift of the Spirit that they were transformed and began preaching fearlessly and working miracles and they were so convinced of what they believed in that they were willing to lay down their lives for it, and most of them did, but they also had to grow and I’m sure that as their life went on their faith continued to grow. No doubt their faith was very different at the end of their lives than it was when they were with Jesus. They then had a life-time of trying to serve God and seeing many extraordinary things. Faith grows gradually, but it does grow.

This weekend we are also focusing on respect for life, reminding ourselves that all life is a gift from God and all life is sacred from the moment of conception to natural death. At the moment we are living in a ‘culture of death’ as John Paul II described it, where life is quickly discarded if it is not convenient. The weakest and most vulnerable are the first to be got rid of. If a child in the womb is not convenient for our life, it is destroyed. This has to be a terrible crime against God and his creation. When we decide who can live and who can die we are playing God which we must not do. Every human being has equal dignity, whether it is someone who is severely handicapped, or someone who finds themselves living on the street because of a crippling addiction. Whatever situation we find ourselves in, we are still created in God’s image and we all have the same dignity as human beings which deserves equal respect.

When we hear of all the terrible things that go on in our world, such as abortion, human trafficking and so many others, we can feel very helpless. But going back to the mustard seed it is good to remember that even with very little faith we can do a lot. You could be cynical and ask, ‘What difference will my faith make?’ But if you remember in September 2013 when the US and France were threatening a military strike against Syria, Pope Francis asked everyone to pray and fast for one day. Just after this President Putin stepped in and offered to work out a deal with Syria over its chemical weapons and a possible war was averted. We never know what our faith can do, even if it is smaller than a mustard seed.

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