Ps 139: (24b) 1b-10
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke
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.”
Good News Reflection: The potential of the mustard seed
Today’s Gospel reading seems to be a smattering of unrelated quips by Jesus. It’s as if he were writing bumper stickers or pithy sayings for billboards in front of churches.
However, when Luke wrote this Gospel, he had a deliberate reason for putting these pearls of holy wisdom here, one right after the other. Jesus was challenging his followers with the implied question: Do you have true faith? Let us examine our answers.
If we have true faith in Jesus, we’re enthralled by who he really is — we’re excited, amazed and fascinated. Because of this, we focus on his every word, so much so that we grow in our understanding of the truth and we become better at living the truth. We becoming more and more unwilling to sin or cause a scandal. And we become less and less likely to accidentally cause a scandal.
If we have true faith in Jesus, we notice how readily he forgives everyone, no matter what they’ve done, and that he has compassion for their regret, joy for their desire to change, and patience for any continued stumbling. We also realize that he knows each sinner’s heart far better than we do, and so we quit judging them, we quit holding grudges, and we freely choose to be merciful to them.
If we have true faith in Jesus, we don’t have to have a big faith to succeed spiritually or to get our prayers answered. Even beginners — newly enlivened Christians who’ve barely started the journey of spiritual discovery — have enough faith to cast trees into the sea. Really? How? Well, remember that faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit. We have God’s own faith within us! That’s more than enough.
True faith is only a matter of remaining true to the faith. Instead of behaving as if the Holy Spirit hasn’t made us any different from people who live without God, our behavior is based on what Jesus taught and did and what his Spirit empowers us to do. And when we fail at that, we run to the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist for healing, purification, and renewed strength.
Jesus isn’t asking us to have enormous faith in him, just real faith. The value of a mustard seed is in its potential to grow — to become more than itself — when properly nourished. You already have the potential for casting trees into the sea — for casting obstacles far from where they can interfere with what God wants for you — so now it’s just a matter of feeding your faith growth.
Never underestimate the importance of your faith, even it if seems too small. Trust the truth. Your holiness will grow!
Lord Jesus, I have been hurt so many times, and so many times I have tried to forgive. I need Your grace, Lord, because I just can’t do it alone. Increase my faith! I give You my desire to forgive; please send Your Spirit to help me forgive. Amen.
© 2017 by Terry A. Modica