Gospel Reading: Lk 17:5-10
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. “Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’ ”
FAITH: THE POWER WITHIN
When troubles beset you, from where or from whom do you draw strength? The Tagalog expression puts this succinctly: “Saan ka ba humuhugot ng lakas?” How painful for the prophet Habakkuk to see violence, strife, and discord around, while the Lord seems deaf to his cry. The young bishop Timothy feels fear and insecurity in his ministry for the Lord. Yet, they are assured. Habakkuk, who prophesies before King Josiah’s death, is told to wait, for there is an appointed time (cf 2:3). He is told by the Lord to write down the vision. Timothy, on the other hand, is reminded by the apostle Paul to stir into flame the gift of God (cf v 6), for the Spirit gives power and love and self-control. The First and Second Readings thus tell us to hold on to our relationship with this God who brings salvation. They remind us to keep alive our covenant with God, holding on to the vision, as Habakkuk is told. We go back to our primal religious experience. We are to grow slowly no matter how painful it may take. We know that growing in the Lord, taking up our cross, is a long, long process, and daily we nurture this relationship. Jesus in the Gospel assures us wonders as he answers the disciples who ask him to increase their faith (cf v 5). The dramatic contrast of actions between the huge mulberry tree and the small mustard seed is what the Lord wants to picture to us: the effect of our remaining in him. The small seed can command the big tree to be uprooted and be planted in the water, not on the soil as we normally expect. The point is on the exaggeration – the action of God, the power that this loving relationship empowers us. And yet, even as we do our part, Jesus reminds, we are only the faithful ones doing our job. In the end, we can make no claim on God’s righteousness. When everything seems out of our control, when fear reigns because of pressing problems, we need to look at the power of a loving God who dwells in our heart. Prayer and recollection keep us in touch with God (just as we confer with others to be able to do the right thing), entrusting everything to God’s loving care. The duet of Miriam and Zipphora (sung by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey) in the movie Prince of Egypt never ceases to inspire me as I marvel at the God who intervened to set his people free: “Many nights we’ve prayed/ with no proof anyone could hear./ In our hearts a hopeful song/ we barely understood./ Now we are not afraid/ although we know/ there’s much to fear./ We were moving mountains/ long before we ever knew we could./ There can be miracles/ when you believe…”
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