November 13, 2017
Today's Gospel reading, Luke 17:1-6
Jesus said to his disciples,
"Things that cause sin will inevitably occur,
but woe to the one through whom they occur.
It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck
and he be thrown into the sea
than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.
Be on your guard!
If your brother sins, rebuke him;
and if he repents, forgive him.
And if he wrongs you seven times in one day
and returns to you seven times saying, 'I am sorry,'
you should forgive him."
And 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."
My dear fellow pilgrims
When I read today’s Gospel, I lol’ed. No really, I actually laughed out loud. It's so human to respond like the disciples do here. I know the feeling.
Can’t you see the disciples just groaning within themselves, after hearing what the Lord teaches here? They neither agree nor disagree with this teaching, but only ask for more faith to carry this out. And Jesus seems to say, at least the way I’m reading it right now, that they already have enough faith to do what He is asking. The issue here is not their "level of faith". The fact that Jesus says that even the tiniest speck of faith (and that’s what a mustard seed looks like, a tiny speck) can lead to miracles is evident that the disciples’ faith to do these mundane, but difficult, tasks is already there. It seems to me that the disciples heard these difficult teachings (especially the “keep forgiving even long after you feel like forgiving” one) and are lamenting the thought of actually following what He commands. It seems like they’re using a pious-sounding prayer to actually mean: “Jesus, make this easier.”
And, if I’m real with myself, I can think of many times when my prayer for more faith was me asking for God to make my life easier, to equip me with more strengths to make it easier to do His will. Sometimes, it is better to just do what you know is right filed with a tiny speck of faith than wait until you have a "satisfactory" understanding of why you should do it or confidence in your ability to do it. We often pray to God to give us greater spiritual strength or capacities, so to speak, to better carry out His will when He would rather have us ask for Him to work through us and trust that He never asks us to do anything that He will not equip us to do. I firmly believe that there are graces and strength reserved for those who venture out into the will of God feeling unequipped for the job but knowing that this job must be done and THEY are the ones who are called to do it. Said another way, if you really believe in the Lord’s commands (for all people and for you in particular!), you also believe that He will be the One working through you to complete these works.
So, let us rely more fully on the Lord, and move boldly forward in His desires for our lives, trusting in His provision.