First Reading: Hb 1:2-3; 2:2-4.; Psalm: 95. R. v. 7d.8a; Second Reading: 2Tim 1:6-8.13-14; Gospel: Lk 17:5-10
WHEN FAITH BECOMES DIFFICULT
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
“And the Lord said, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, ‘Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Lk 17:6).
Have you ever had faith crisis? I mean a very serious crisis of faith. A time that you wondered if God was real; if his words were really true. A time when you absolutely trusted in God to change your condition and nothing happened. A time you struggled to decide whether to keep believing in God or not.
I had just arrived South Africa; barely two weeks into my stay. On this very day, I was at table having lunch with Fr Kris when he received a call. At the end of the call, his countenance changed. Then he announced that it was Bernice; a parishioner. And that her cancer had reached stage four. This was the first time I learnt of this woman and her illness. Fr Kris was my predecessor at St Augustine’s parish. He was rounding up his work at the parish to go on sabbatical. But before he left, we took the sacrament to Bernice. She was all smiles and thankful, hoping that she would get well again.
When Fr Kris finally left; I took the sacrament to Bernice on several occasions. Bernice was in her fifties and always smiled whenever I visited. I remembered in one of my visits, she said to me, “Fr, the doctors are saying that I have few months to live. But I told them they are not God; that my God can heal me. I believe in the Holy Eucharist, and I know that Jesus would heal me.” Bernice for me was a very devout Catholic; a woman of great faith. She trusted so much in God; a faith which I believe was bigger than a grain of mustard seed. But did her faith save her? Did God heal her? Bernice died a few months later.
Upon reflection, I wondered how Bernice felt seeing herself getting worse every day while she believed in God’s divine healing. I wondered if she sustained that faith in God till death. Or if she felt abandoned by God at some point that she had to battle between believing and not believing in God anymore. I wondered if she had this faith crisis.
Do we think that Jesus was realistic when he said that with faith as little as a grain of mustard seed we could root up a sycamine tree and have it planted in the sea? Because they’ve definitely been times we believed so much in God’s intervention in difficult or in an impossible situations and nothing changed. Bernice’s case was one. Situations like hers can wreck our faith so much so that we can become very weak or slow to believing anything regarding God’s promises in the scriptures.
But perhaps we are skewed in our understanding and interpretation of the scriptures. Because sometimes we tend to interpret the words of Jesus to suit our situations without really understanding them in a broader perspective. It is absolutely true that with faith we can do the impossible but not in all cases. Faith in God in different situations can be approached in different ways. If we asked for something in faith and it didn’t happen; then we need the faith to accept the situation as it is without blaming God for not answering if really we trust in God’s volition. We can have faith both in God’s capacity to act and in God’s silence.
The immediate discussion that preceded today’s gospel narrative was on the need to forgive one’s brother as often as seven times if he asks forgiveness. The Rabbinic teaching considered three times as the limit to pardoning an offence. But Jesus doubled this number of times with an addition of one. Certainly, this was a new teaching that was difficult for the apostles to take. And so they asked Jesus to increase their faith so as to be able to do this.
So, moving a sycamine tree with a faith as tiny as that of a mustard seed in this context could mean enduring the hurts of offences and forgiving one another as often as God commanded us. And certainly, this is a difficult and a near impossible thing to do. So this could be the reason why Jesus had to use this illustration of a sycamine tree to prove to the apostles that with faith they can do what appears difficult or impossible to do.
What Jesus is saying to us today is to have faith in God through whom we can do all things. And this also includes that faith to trust in God and not to lose faith in him even in hurtful situations that we cannot change. Because most times we tend to see God as one who should be at our beck and call. And if this doesn’t happen, we begin to feel that God hates us or does not care about us. So as we build our faith around God’s power and capacity to intervene in our situations; we should as well build our faith around God’s silence even in conditions we feel he ought to act.
The first reading of today reiterates that the righteous shall live by faith. And that it is only those whose souls are not upright that shall fail. So we can consider whatever situation we are going through at the moment as a test of faith. If God seems slow to answer us, we can wait on him; he is never late. But if eventually things turn out not as expected, we can pray for the faith to accept that situation that may seem impossible to accept.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, increase our faith. Amen.
Egbuonu Johnpaul Okey
Lord Almighty increase my faith in Jesus name Amen