October 6, 2019 Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily

Faith. This is a word that we throw around a lot in religion. But what does it mean? Before we look at today’s readings, let’s perhaps review its meaning. Faith is about the future. It is about belief, and it is about trust and loyalty.

If we look at faith as belief, it means that we accept things that don’t have any real evidence or logical proof. For example, belief in God or belief in an afterlife. People have come up with proofs for God’s existence, but in reality most people believe it in faith.

If we look at faith as trusting in something, we believe in the truth of something and are loyal to that belief. The faith of our fathers and mothers that we talk about is our trust that the religion we accept, the path that Jesus taught, is truthful and right. We accept it, live it and believe in it.

But, it is not always easy in our culture to have faith in something, to have faith in anything. Faith, we say, is a gift. When the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith, they are asking for something that most humans have felt in their lifetimes. We want to believe in something. We need to believe in something. But we have doubts. So how can we increase our faith, lose our doubt and believe more deeply than we do? The Apostles were with Jesus and still had to ask the question: how can we increase our faith?

The prophet Habakkuk was asking the same question. He had faith – he was addressing God, but he didn’t think God was listening. How long did he have to see violence and destruction and misery before he lost his faith in God and was no longer loyal to the one God. How many times can we be depressed and alone and unanswered before we give up? The answer to Habakkuk was that if you are a just person, and act justly to others with integrity, your faith will be strengthened as a result of your living, and even though the rewards are delayed, you can be sure they will come. In this case, faith seems to be increased by living morally and honestly which is being loyal to God’s commands.

In our culture, we feel that we live morally and truthfully because we have Christian faith. But here God says through the prophet that by living morally and truthfully, you will increase your faith. You become more loyal to God by acting loyally to God.

Paul, in the second reading to Timothy, tells Timothy that his faith will be increased by his ordination, the imposition of Paul’s hands on him, in which the spirit increases the gifts we have of power, love and self-control. This is the reverse of Habakkuk, but is what we normally think of – that faith leads to integrity.

So at this point it seems that we are developing a circle here of being moral leading to faith and loyalty to Jesus, leading us to be more moral.

When the Apostles ask Jesus how they can be more faithful, what they are asking in the context of what has just gone before, is how they can be more loyal to Christ, how they can strengthen their belief and trust in Christ and all that Christ demands.

Jesus has made it very clear to his close followers that he demanded loyalty from them. As we have seen recently, he demanded that they put Jesus even ahead of their families. Jesus was demanding a lot from his twelve apostles. Their question, then, was one of asking for help in making that commitment.

With his metaphor of the mustard seed, a very tiny seed, Jesus tells them that even with a small amount of faith, God will hear them and answer their needs, even if it was something that needed a miracle. Jesus explains that the Apostles do have faith and that with the amount of faith they already have, they can do impossible things.

The story of St.Peter comes to mind: he sees Jesus walking on the water and ask to come to him if he is Jesus. Jesus says come and Peter leaves the boat and is walking towards him as long as his eyes are on Jesus. As soon as he looks around he sees the storm and the waives and the darkness of the storm, he starts to sink. If we have our eyes on Jesus even with a little faith just to make the first step we can do amazing even impossible things, Jesus makes us do it!

Then Jesus tells a short parable about a man who has only one servant. And that servant is expected to do not only the outside work, but also the inside work or preparing meals. A servant is hired and expected to do what an employer asks. Some tasks will be more difficult and time consuming than others. We shouldn’t expect the employer to do the servant’s task of making supper and having the servant sit down to eat with him. It doesn’t work that way.

The end of the parable simply means that a good servant is expected to just do his or her job. This is similar to the Habakkuk reading  that by doing what you are supposed to do, your faith will increase. The Twelve, to increase their faith, have to do the work Jesus has taught and expects them to do.

Faith is a gift! We don’t get it by working harder for it.

So what can this mean for us this week? I am sure we all struggle with our faith at some time or another.

First of all we need to recognize that it is a gift to us. Faith is our gift – it has been given to each of us here, some more than others. Some of us might have the faith of a mustard seed, others might have been given a greater faith. But we can use what we are given and do amazing things with it – move mountains so to say! All we need to do is to accept and come to grips with this gift of faith. We need to do the things that we are expected to do, the things Jesus asks us to do – love God, love our neighbor. If we work at these things, we will be increasing our faith. To work toward making the kingdom of heaven happen here on earth and to work to bring and end to injustice in the world this is what we must do as Christians. It is expected of us.

So let us think this week about how we are doing in what has been expected. Have we shown love to our God as he deserves? In what little ways? Have we fought to bring justice to all people? In what little ways? Have we tried to transform the world and make it a little better place? In what little ways? If we are not using our gift, it will not grow. From the littlest seeds, great trees can grow. And even a tiny mustard seed bears much fruit!