Grace to you!
Recently, a onetime atheist shared with me a powerful testimony about how he received the gift of faith. He is a very brilliant fellow, whose knack for mathematical reasoning is exceptional. According to him, there were deep-seated questions within him concerning the meaning of life, which he couldn’t answer.
One day, he bumped into the spiritual writings of great Catholic mystics such as Saints John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena. He gulped their contents like a deer does fresh water. Though as someone without prior religious background (he simply wasn’t exposed to it), he didn’t know what they were saying, except that within him, he felt something positively different about what he was reading. God was nurturing his mind for a deeper encounter.
His faith-journey could be compared to that of Edith Stein (Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), the great German Jewish philosopher (student of Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology), whose readings about Christian classics stirred her heart to faith. From reading about the life and faith-journey of the saints, this young man came to the inner joy he was looking for. This led him to search for a church, a long journey that eventually led him to the Catholic Church.
The first time he participated at Mass, he said: “I felt, this is it.” He found what he was searching for. He discovered his heart’s desire. The gift of faith is wonderful, isn’t it?
Nonetheless, every faith journey comes with a price. A growing faith has to be tested. His was. There came moments of trials and temptations. He also experienced moments of anguish too. Thank God he survived them all. He grew faithful in his commitment to the Lord. For as the St. Paul writes; “suffering produces perseverance, which produces character” (Rm 5:3-4).
When we receive the gift of faith, we pass through those initial experiences of joy. Then the journey and moments of deepening begin. It’s different for everyone, though certainly those moments of test will come. It is at those moments we realize how little or strong is our faith.
Realizing how little their faith was, just like many of ours today, the apostles prayed the Lord to increase their faith (Lk 17:5). The Lord’s response is key here: “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Lk 17:6). Matthew’s Gospel gives us another variation of the encounter, reporting that the Lord said that with a faith the size of a mustard seed, one can move the mountain (Mt. 17:19). Moving the mountain or the sycamore (mulberry) tree—in either case, the message is the power of faith to do what is beyond our physical abilities.
We often think of faith in terms of quantity, but the Lord teaches something different. It is not the quantity of our faith that matters, but its quality. My best description of the faith that moves mountains, the one about the size of a mustard seed, is genuine faith. It is the faith that is simple and complete in sincere trust and love. That is the faith that endures through trying moments.
Some qualities of this faith are comparable to the kind of trust a baby has in her mother, always confident of mom’s affection, provision and love. It is the genuine faith that says, ‘good or bad, God is in charge.’ Call it blind faith, yet it sees; it holds on and it is trustingly confident in divine providence.
It is the kind of faith of the three men in the heart of the fire (Ananias, Azarias and Mizael) that made them tell Nebuchadnezzar (symbol of anti-true God policy) at his face that if our God wants to save us, He will; but, if not, we are not going to serve you (Daniel 3: 17-18). It is the kind of faith that does not compromise good principles no matter the consequences.
It is the kind of faith that made Abraham (Gen12:1ff) move, without questioning, to an unknown land just because God spoke to him. It is the kind of faith expressed by people in the person of Job, who passed through the most severe trials and yet declared: “I know my redeemer lives.” (Job 19:17).
It is the kind of faith demonstrated by people like Saint Damien of Molokai, who despite the glaring dangers of leprosy, was not deterred to serve God in his fellow human beings. It is faith rooted in God, driven by hope and charity.
Scripture announcing the blessing of this kind of faith says: “The just one, because of his faith, shall live” (Habakkuk 2:4). Some scholars suggest the text could also be read as the just man lives because of their faithfulness. This faith is faithful. It’s enduring. It lasts.
Would you, therefore, pray with me for the increase of faith: “Lord, Increase our faith.” Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[27thSunday C: Hab 1:2-3, 2:2-4; 2 Tim 1:6-8, 13-14; Lk 17:5-10]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.