Gospel Reflection for Sunday the 1st of October 2022
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
To view the Gospel for Sunday please click here!
Trust, Surrender, Believe, Receive
The request of the apostles to Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel could be our request too: “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). Our own faith, at times, like a flickering flame, can feel fragile, especially in the face of the skepticism and the indifference to faith in our contemporary culture; we can meet opposition at school, college, the workplace, even among friends and family. Also, the experience of pain and loss in our own lives or witnessing such suffering in our world can challenge our own faith in a loving God.
In Baptism, we have entered through that “door of faith” (Acts 14:27), “to set out on a journey that lasts lifetime” (Pope Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, 2011). Hence faith is a gift from God, a theological virtue, given at Baptism, and develops according to how receptive we are and open to God’s grace. Faith involves God lifting the soul into God’s own life; it comes from God and leads to God (c.f. Iain Matthew, The Impact of God, p. 101). Hence faith grows as a relationship in silence and prayer. In any relationship, knowledge about someone grows into knowledge of someone; from “I know he likes a cappuccino first thing in the morning” or “I know she enjoys listening to Dermot Kennedy” to “She is so kind and sincere” or “He is such a person of integrity”. Likewise in faith, we progress from “I believe in God” to “I rest in his presence, speak to him honestly, and listen to his Word”.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, faith is the “personal adherence of the whole person to God who reveals himself. It involves an assent of the intellect and will to the self-revelation God has made through his deeds and words” (CCC 176). Faith is our own response to God’s revelation of his love and salvation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Faith involves an
acceptance and an integration of the Church’s creed and teachings into our lives. Hence faith formation is vital for the continuous growth of faith like reading the scriptures, studying resources on Catholic spirituality and theology, or sharing in a bible study with others. Sometimes there can be an overly-intellectual approach to faith; faith is a much richer reality than simply “downloading” ideas or theories. Faith is not just a matter of the mind, but also a habit of the heart (c.f. CCC 1814).
In the Letter to the Hebrews, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Faith involves that letting go our own safeguards and defense mechanisms, and surrendering our lives to God and the power of his grace. How often do we trust without proof or evidence? When we board a flight, we trust, without questioning, that pilot is competent to fly the plane and the aeronautical engineers have completed their work thoroughly; after our car is serviced at the garage, we trust that the mechanic has serviced that car and that it is road-worthy. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus invites us to a deeper, stronger faith. The context to this Gospel is Jesus on his way to Jerusalem to face his passion and death. The faith of his followers is about to be tested. The odds must have seemed impossible. The leading religious establishment and the political powers of Pontius Pliate and Herod would be lining up against him. At the time of Jesus, the mulberry tree was thought of as the tree with the biggest root system. Its roots were so deep and tangled that they were thought almost impossible to dig up. No wonder Jesus refers to it. Getting through what lay ahead for Jesus and his disciples must have seemed as impossible as uprooting a mulberry tree and then planting it in the sea (c.f. Luke 17:6). To the human mind and heart, facing oppression, injustice, suffering, pain, and death, like the events of Holy Week, with faith and hope seems impossible. The disciples must have felt anxious about what lay ahead. They felt the need for something more than their own will power: “Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5) they say. Jesus gives us the same instruction as his disciples; he encourages us to surrender to him in faith; even a small amount of faith – faith the size of a mustard seed can be so powerful and transform a difficult reality.
The second half of the Gospel captures the expression of faith through faithful service. Jesus uses the image of servants working in agriculture, working the land and herding animals, and waiting on the master at table to capture the disciple who serves his or her Master. Service is not to be undertaken simply to receive attention and rewards, but out of trust in the Master’s promise of love and mercy: “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty” (Luke 17: 10)
Faith involves believe in doctrines, finds expression through prayer, is confirmed in miracles, but ultimately guides us in a life of loving service to God and neighbour. Pope Francis captures this type of faith so beautifully and concretely: “Faith is born of an encounter with God’s primordial love, wherein the meaning and goodness of our life become evident; our life is illumined to the extent that it enters into the space opened by that love, to the extent that it becomes, in other words, a path and praxis leading to the fullness of love. The light of faith is capable of enhancing the richness of human relations, their ability to endure, to be trustworthy, to enrich our life together. Faith does not draw us away from the world or prove irrelevant to the concrete concerns of the men and women of our time. (Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei, 51).
While faith is personal, it is not to be individualistic – it finds communal and ecclesial expression particularly through the gathered congregation for Mass and the sacraments, and is deeply relational. Faith is a relationship with God characterized by trust, fidelity, integrity and openness to love. The faithful servant of God St Teresa of Kolkata once said: “The fruit of silence is prayer; the fruit of prayer is faith; the fruit of faith is love; the fruit of love is service; the fruit of service is peace.”
Trust, Surrender, Believe, Receive