I like to think that faith is a two-way street”
27 Sunday Reflection
The short gospel in today’s Mass, that of the 27th Sunday of the Church Year is is principally a discussion about faith.
The apostles say to Jesus ‘Increase our faith’ – faith which is a belief in God and loyalty to God.
It is clear that the apostles had been talking among themselves about God, and indeed about Jesus, not yet realising that Jesus was already God among them, the second Person of a divine Trinity.
The apostles were the closest daily followers of Jesus and saw who he was and what wonders he had been doing in his public life, and yet as a group, they had to say to Jesus ‘Increase our faith’.
In a way, it a challenge to Jesus, as if to say, ‘It’s up to you to increase our faith, it is not up to us.’ It was not the first time, and would not be the last that they had got the cart before the horse.
Jesus takes a look at them and wistfully says to them in a typical Middle Eastern throwaway comment, ‘if you had an iota of faith, you would be able to work miracles yourselves. You could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and re-planted in the sea’.’
In Greek, the word ‘apostle’ means messenger, envoy, ambassador, the one who is about to be sent on an expedition. The apostles, unknowing as of yet, were about to be launched on a career as messengers of a divine Word, without yet having a clue as to the message to be communicated.
Faith is a personal gift with community consequences. A child may be baptised into our faith, but does not have a personal faith or set of beliefs, until knowledge however imperfectly begins to form in the young person’s mind. To help us remember what we actually believe, we recite the Creed, our set of beliefs, each time we attend Mass.
Do we ask others to increase our faith, or with God’s help, do we do it ourselves? Faith in God certainly needs the strength of his grace. To receive faith, to be given the gift of faith, to nourish and develop faith, we need to be in the right place at the right time. We need to create situations where God can get a look-in into our busy lives. The gift of faith does not wash away doubt, and so many a mulberry bush and other trees will be quite safe for a long time to come, without being uprooted and re-planted in the sea.
Some think that faith is a one-way street of belief in God, of a number of matters about God, which God in his wisdom has revealed over the millennia, or of matters which we can logically work out ourselves about God from his revelations.
But I like to think that faith is a two-way street, where God also believes in us, giving us life, intelligence, will, and most dangerously, giving us free will to make choice after choice.
We can ask ourselves, ‘Do our lives, our work, our activities honour and worship God as a reflection of our faith?’ Or does God say, ‘Your faith is not half as awake, half as alive, half as vibrant as my faith is in you.’
Faith puts us on a path of belief towards God. Our sense of duty, the other thought in today’s gospel, keep us going. And in all of this, God’s grace through the sacraments gives us the spiritual strength to carry on.