2004—Twenty-seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time—C
Increase our faith, the disciples ask Jesus in today's Gospel and Jesus answers that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will be able to do incredible things.
I'm wondering why the disciples asked Jesus to "increase their faith." Wasn't it enough that they were walking with him? Wasn't it enough that they saw the miracles he was performing? Wasn't it enough that they heard him speak of God in new and wonderful ways? They had witnessed the wonders and heard the words and still they were asking for an "increase" in faith.
Or was the reason that they were asking for the "increase" or "raise" in faith that they had heard his frustration with them when he would say "oh, you of little faith" in many circumstances where they thought they were losing it. (Not just faith but losing it in general)
Why doesn't Jesus make up his mind? First he says that "little faith" is not enough and then he says "a little faith, the size of a mustard seed" is really enough.
Good old enigmatic, Jesus. What could he mean? I've been thinking and praying about this all week and this is what I came up with.
First let me ask you: Are you good enough? Are you smart enough? Are you attractive enough? Are you kind enough? Are you faithful enough? Enough already. So much of our life is spent "measuring up". There always seems to be a "more" that we think we have to do or be. (It may be part of that Catholic guilt thing. Never enough of that!) Even something as mysterious as "Faith", that intangible, relational, way of "seeing" the world and the ultimate meaning of things is "measured" and compared. I wish I had as much faith as so and so. I don't have enough faith to get me through this personal crisis. As if faith were a quantity that could be "measured".
Increase our faith! Jesus takes the question but doesn't answer it directly as is often his wont. He gives them an example that is frankly absurd, or should at least get a response of "you've got be kidding". All the "faith " in the world is not going to make the mulberry bush be uprooted and be planted in the sea.
What the image does is stop you. It invites us to reflect on the nature of faith. Is it possible to quantify the experience of faith? Is it possible that Jesus uses this example to demonstrate that faith cannot be quantified? Is it possible that Jesus want his disciples to "see the world" differently, not according to what is "natural" but according to what is . I don't want to say "Super natural" because then we get in to size, Supersize Faith. Jesus' example of the mustard seed might just shift our way of thinking about "having more" and needing more. "Think big! No think "Small". Think atomic particles" Think of what's going on deep within your being right now. Might Jesus be saying that each of us already has within all that we need? This kernel, core, seed of God's life within us is all that we need. Why? Because faith is not a have or a have not but a dynamic life force that enables us to see the world in a different way, with the eyes of God.
Let's say it poetically with Jesuit Poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. "There lives the dearest freshness deep down things". It is the "Deep within of God's life in us" that enables us to see the world differently. It is the deepwithiness of God's indwelling in us that enables us to see the world Charged with the grandeur of God.