C Cycle – 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time 22
I do not know about you but the response of Jesus to the disciple’s desire to increase their faith seems strange to me. First, he tells them it really does not take much faith to tap into the power of God and do miraculous things. Then, he tells them a parable about a servant’s task is to never expect anything from the master but more tasks. A servant must fulfill the tasks given to them and expect nothing in return. Not a word of gratitude, not a word of praise or condemnation because you have only done what you were obligated to do. What has that got to do with faith?
Jesus had just finished telling the disciples the story of the unjust steward and the parable about Lazarus and the rich man. After telling them those parables the disciples are silent. Are they reflecting on the meaning of the parables, or are they looking inward, considering their own failings to be good stewards or how they have become complacent because they are part of the inner circle of Jesus. We have no way of knowing what motivated them to ask that question about faith or what was going on in their minds after hearing about the steward and the rich man. But it seems as if they were considering their own short comings and realized to be disciples they had to needed to grow in faith.
However, just before they ask that question about faith, Jesus tells them there will be stumbling blocks that will occur in our lives, but we need to be aware of the one from whom those stumbling blocks come. I can think of many stumbling blocks that prevented me from embracing Jesus as the way to the Father. My own lack of religious formation by my parents and by the catholic church of my youth, by friends who were only interested in enjoying life. Each stumbling block we are Jesus tells us to forgive. Is forgiveness a key to increasing faith? Can we forgive ourselves for falling short? Or is forgiveness of those who have hurt or wounded us a bigger key than forgiving ourselves?
To tell you the truth, I never thought those who were stumbling blocks in my life, for I was my own stumbling block. But as I reflect on Christs words in response to a question about faith, I realized how a lack of believing God could do more in my life caused me to become complacent about my faith. The truth is, I was not interested in the teachings of Christ and was easily influenced to seek the things the world offered. But if faith is to grow in any of us, we need to shed the wounds of our past because they shape how we see ourselves and God. Forgiving those who put stumbling blocks in my way frees me to pay attention to now and not the past. Jesus is telling us how to grow our faith by allowing Jesus to show us how our past is just that, the past. It is not our future nor our destiny.
Having our faith increased begins with having our eyes opened to “spiritual truth” about who we are and why we were created. Do the disciples want their faith increased so they can avoid being the “unjust steward?” Or are they beginning to understand as we must because we are called to become disciples.
The reason they want their faith increased is important for us to consider as we are being challenged to examine the depth of our own faith. Do we or did they want a faith that makes us feel as if we are always pleasing to God? Because if that is where your faith is leading you then we will never do anything that challenges us to walk by faith not by sight.
Being a disciple is challenging because it demands of us to know where and how we are to serve. It demands of us not to expect any reward but to be given more and greater tasks. Remember the words of Jesus, “… to the one who has multiplied his talent more will be given. The reward of being a good servant of God is not his praise but the fact that the people we serve will have their eyes opened to the reality of grace and forgiveness.
Jesus was preparing them and is preparing us to act on the faith we have been given when the Spirit came upon us at baptism and confirmation. A faith that says, “God is with me, even when he is silent.” Even when it seems society is breaking down with rising crime, increasing immorality, increasing threats of wars and famine. God is with us, and we can and will be at peace. Perhaps we need to reflect on how the disciples gave witness to Jesus Christ as the Messiah and how their witness impacted the world. Yet we must admit we are easily distracted by what is going on in society today and by those who interact with us.
Christ is telling us he can heal our past wounds and remove all the barriers we have constructed to protect ourselves from being wounded again. If we can trust him with our hearts, then we have begun to increase our faith. If we can admit we desire what Christ is offering us, then we can begin to allow his words to penetrate our hearts and change us and heal our past hurts, wounds, and pain. Christ will begin to be present to us rather than just a figure on the cross. We will encounter the living God in our prayer and in reading of the scriptures and our worship will become alive.
We will forgive ourselves for not responding to Christ before now and we will begin to be filled with a certainty that we are loved; we are called, and we are willing to take a step into the uncertain future of following Jesus.
Faith after all is “…the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1) and faith is grown “…by hearing and what is heard comes from the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Lord, increase our faith, amen.