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Increase Our Faith

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.

These are the words that begin our gospel reading today. The apostles had seen Jesus do many miracles as He cured people and drove out demons. Through the power Jesus gave them, they had even healed people themselves. They had also heard Jesus teach. From all of this Peter professed that Jesus is the Messiah.

Through what they experienced they had come to faith in Jesus. Yet, they knew their faith was not as strong as it should be. Thus, they asked Jesus to increase their faith.

How strong is your faith? When you face sufferings, do you feel like your faith is wavering?

Sufferings are nothing new. When we suffer, we pray but we don’t always get the answer we want when we want. We see this from Habakkuk in our first reading. Habbakuk cries out, “How long, O LORD? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not intervene.” He faces ruin, misery, destruction, and violence.

What is the Lord’s response to Habakkuk? He gives Habakkuk a vision and tells him to “Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its time…it will not be late.” God has a plan that He reveals in this vision but it is not yet time to fulfill it. He tells Habakkuk to write it down so that when it is fulfilled, the people will know that God keeps his promises. No matter how bad things get, God is with us.

Habakkuk lamented what he was going through. His lamentation might be interpreted as losing faith. Yet, we know he still has faith. How? Because he is crying out to the Lord! If he had lost his faith completely, he would not have cried out to the Lord. He still believes. He just doesn’t understand. He struggles. He needs more faith.

Returning to today’s gospel passage, how does Jesus respond to the apostles request, “Increase our faith“? Jesus replies, “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.

Ouch! A mustard seed is tiny. I have not moved a mulberry tree by merely telling it to move. I know my faith is not perfect but how small is my faith?

Actually, I’ve never tried to move a mulberry tree (or any tree) by words. I don’t expect to. Yet, I do face struggles. I try to accept them as I know Jesus calls us to carry our crosses. Paul writes to the Timothy, “bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” We are called to bear our hardships but we don’t have to do it alone. We do it with “the strength that comes from God.

We are to “stir into flame the gift of God” that we have received. Paul speaks to Timothy of the gift that Timothy has received through the imposition of hands. He is speaking of Timothy’s ordination as a bishop. In the imposition of hands for ordination Timothy receives the gift of the Holy Spirit in a particular way. Not all are called to ordination but we do all receive the Holy Spirit through the laying of hands at Confirmation. It is a spirit of “power and love and self-control.”

We count on the Holy Spirit but we may not always listen. Whenever I hear the responsorial verse, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts,” I am puzzled. Why would anyone harden their hearts when they hear God’s voice? There are times I beg to hear God’s voice. Why won’t one listen? Perhaps it is because the Lord is saying something we don’t want to hear. The Lord may be saying “no” or “not now” or telling us to do something we don’t want. So, we pretend not to hear him or perhaps we say that it isn’t the Lord saying it. In doing so, we harden our hearts to the what the Lord is saying.

We ask the Lord for an “increase in faith” so that we may always trust in him. We long for the day when we can be with him. Until then, we seek to live as faithful servants of the Lord, doing what He commands. We do so not for glory but as what we are “obliged to do” as disciples of the Lord.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

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