Lord, increase our faith!

In Faith Formation classes as an example of FAITH, I  have used the example of the cheerleader who is on top of the pyramid. That  cheerleader has solid faith that the bottom row of  cheerleaders can hold him/her up.

Faith, you either have it or you don’t .

You really can’t increase your faith. But you CAN strengthen your faith . By repeated practice and strengthening exercises, the cheerleader does not fall. There was always faith, but now it is secured.

I think we can all identify with what Habakkuk is saying in the first reading,  “How long, Lord?  I cry for help, but you do not listen. ….Why must I see misery?

In this Sundays Prayer of the Faithful  we prayed for a unified world,  less terrorism, less stratified politics, less disease, less suffering  and more pain relief.  God answers by suggesting a visual, ‘Write it down  clearly.”  The vision will happen, Wait for it. Don’t give up. Have hope. Faith breeds hope.

We do not seem to believe that God’s “love for us surpasses all our hopes and desires.” Moreover, we do not have faith in our own ability to do wonders such as moving sycamores, like the mature mustard seed. We do not really believe that we can accomplish the things we desire. We complain to God with hardened hearts.

Ya Gotta Believe……..that you can do it!

The mustard seed is very small, but Jesus says that it is enough to have a faith like this, small, but it is true.  But like any seed , it needs to be nurtured, watered, fertilized. Our water and fertilizer are  prayer, grace, good deeds and more prayer, grace and good deeds. Do you know people who ,with incredibly strong faith, who are simple, humble, but with an incredibly strong faith, can truly move mountains! Or as this Gospel asserts, have uprooted mulberry trees? Who are they? What have they accomplished? Can your faith help you do the kinds of things they did? Can it help you overcome obstacles?                                                                                                                                     

However, doing good deeds does not entitle us to go to the head of the line. Jesus’ demands of forgiveness, loyalty, and service as a way of life  still challenge his American disciples.

The second half of this Gospel is a warning.         

The readings remind me of  ‘Faith without works are dead.’ (Jm 2:24) Jesus responds that authentic faith, though small in size, can accomplish amazing things. But these great works can lead to the danger of attributing them to personal achievement. Some might even think that their service for God obligates Him to honor them. So, Jesus warns those people, by a parable, to regard their service as nothing more than a duty. Thus, the meaning of the second half of the reading.  We are not ‘ profitable’ servants. WE serve at the table of the Lord because it is or job as  disciples. We are here to serve. We are not expected to receive profit from service. We earn grace. Our success is measured by seeing our seeds take root, grow mature and produce fruit and thus produce more seeds.

I pray that I may know what I ought to do, then do more, and then go over and above,   and I ask God to give me the strength and the courage to do it

Jesus warns us against the seeking credit                                                                                            

  • Jesus warns us against the seeking credit Remember that the context in which we find this parable is a series of teachings for Jesus’ disciples about faith. The Lord’s insistence that forgiveness be granted continually is such a hard teaching that the disciples ask for an increase in faith. Jesus responds that authentic faith, though small in size, can accomplish amazing things. But these great works can lead to the danger of attributing them to personal achievement. Some might even think that their service for God obligates Him to honor them. So Jesus warns those people, by a parable, to regard their service as nothing for our good deeds. Saying, 'I have done only what I ought to have done' tests our humility. Saint John of the Cross advises that a test of the truth of our humility is to imagine somebody else saying what we 'humbly' admit; can I agree or do I become indignant?
  • As I spend time in prayer, God draws my attention to my life and hopes and my faith becomes stronger as I learn to trust in God and in myself.
  • I pray that I may know what I ought to do and I ask God to give me the strength and the courage to do it.

My dear friends: hard work and a strong sense of family and community have sustained you in the past in your upright Christian lives. Above all, your faith in Jesus Christ and the hope that it generates in you are at the basis of all your aspirations for a better future. … May God our Father grant success to the work of your hands.

Pope John Paul II,

 

apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith. He answers with the metaphor of the mustard seed: “If you had the faith the size of a mustard seed, you could do whatever it is you want.”

The problem is that we do not have that kind of faith. We do not really believe that we can accomplish the things we desire. We cry out to God about the violence, ruin, and misery in our world: “Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and clamorous discord. We bow down in worship and kneel before the Lord who made us, but with hardened hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert.”

We do not seem to believe that God’s “love for us surpasses all our hopes and desires.” Moreover, we do not have faith in our own ability to do wonders such as moving sycamores.

And so the world continues being overwhelmed with violence, ruin, misery, destruction, strife and discord. Poverty, hunger, oppression, and war exist not because they have to but because we do not have faith in God or in ourselves.

Lord, increase our faith!

 

Do you know people, as Pope Francis suggests below, who, with “incredibly strong faith,” have moved mountains? Or as this Gospel asserts, have uprooted mulberry trees? Who are they? What have they accomplished? Can your faith help you do the kinds of things they did? Can it help you overcome obstacles?

The mustard seed is very small, but Jesus says that it is enough to have a faith like this, small, but true, sincere to do things that are humanly impossible, unthinkable. And it is true! We all know people who are simple, humble, but with an incredibly strong faith, who truly move mountains!

We are unprofitable because we earn nothing

We get paid nothing

It is part of our job to serve as amber of God’s household.

You just do not know how faith bears fruit. You just do not know how love lives anew.

“Due-Nothing” Servant

In the ancient Middle-Eastern world every family, even relatively poor ones, had at least one servant. The very poorest families gave some of their children to other families as servants to ensure that they would be fed.

The master in this parable apparently has only one servant who both tends the fields and does the cooking. The thrust of the story is clear and straightforward. Good servants do what they are told. A master never has to thank a servant for doing what was expected.

Most translations cause confusion with their rendition of Jesus’ final advice to disciples: “When you have carried out all your orders, learn to say: we are worthless servants; we have only done our duty.” “Worthless”?

Literally, the Greek adjective means “without need.” The New English Bible captures this sense in its rendition: “We are servants and deserve no credit.”

The neologism that I propose (“due-nothing” servant) reflects the pun-oriented sense of humor that Jesus exhibited (in Aramaic) on many occasions. While this servant clearly is not a “do-nothing” person, it is also clear that a servant is “due nothing” for services rendered.

Jesus’ demands of forgiveness, loyalty, and the surrendering of an entitlement mentality still challenge his American disciples.

John J. Pilch

The parable, which forms the second half of our gospel reading, is connected with the saying about faith, because it warns the disciples against supposing that faith, and the obedient service of the Lord in which faith is expressed, establishes a claim for reward.

  “When you have done all that is commanded you, say ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” Reginald H. Fuller

How can they give birth to goodness in a world that so often seems to gestate death?

Remember that the context in which we find this parable is a series of teachings for Jesus’ disciples about faith. The Lord’s insistence that forgiveness be granted continually is such a hard teaching that the disciples ask for an increase in faith. Jesus responds that authentic faith, though small in size, can accomplish amazing things. But these great works can lead to the danger of attributing them to personal achievement. Some might even think that their service for God obligates Him to honor them. So Jesus warns those people, by a parable, to regard their service as nothing more than a duty.

 

  • Jesus warns us against the seeking credit for our good deeds. Saying, 'I have done only what I ought to have done' tests our humility. Saint John of the Cross advises that a test of the truth of our humility is to imagine somebody else saying what we 'humbly' admit; can I agree or do I become indignant?
  • As I spend time in prayer, God draws my attention to my life and hopes and my faith becomes stronger as I learn to trust in God and in myself.
  • I pray that I may know what I ought to do and I ask God to give me the strength and the courage to do it.