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Archbishop Francesco Follo, courtesy of the Holy See Mission , UNESCO

Archbishop Francesco Follo, courtesy of the Holy See Mission , UNESCO

Archbishop Follo: Faith is a Gift to Grow in us and to Share with Others

With the invitation to understand that faith is born of encounter and grows in sharing

XXVII Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C- October 6, 2019

 

Roman Rite

Hb 1:2-3; 2:2-4; Ps 95; 2Tim 1:6-8.13-14; Lk17:5-10

Faith the size of a mustard seed[1]

 

Ambrosian Rite

VI Sunday after Saint John’s martyrdom

1Kings 17:6-16; Heb 13:1-8; Mt 10:40-42

The apostles’ mission continues the one of Jesus

  • A “supplement” of faith

In this XXVII Sunday of Ordinary Time of the liturgical year, the Gospel offers us a reflection on the gift of faith. It is true that the source of faith is in God and that He gives it us, but it is equally true that we must answer to the gift with gratitude that “it is always a powerful weapon” (Pope Francis). Our thanks is not simply an act of courtesy, it is a personal response of total availability to the will of God.

Why then, despite having accepted this gift and having given it a positive response, today the Apostles ask Jesus: “Lord, increase our faith” (Lk 17: 5)? It is the radical demands of the Redeemer that rise in his followers the request for a “supplement” of faith. For example, the Messiah demands that we must grant “a forgiveness without measure” (Lk 17: 4-4). Faced with this request, that Christ sets as a condition to be his followers, the Apostles (and we with them) discover the smallness of their faith and their inability to understand the validity of such a statement and above to translate it into real life.

Faith is totally relying on God, it is accepting a project calculated on the possibilities of God and not on ours. The possibilities are no longer measured starting from us, but starting from God’s love for us.

To this we are called: to grow in faith, to open ourselves and to welcome the gift of God with freedom.

If we insistently ask Christ to increase our faith and to help us walk confidently with him, Master, Brother and divine Friend, faith opens us to know and welcome the real identity of Jesus, his novelty and uniqueness, and His Word as a force and source of life to live a personal relationship with Him. The knowledge of faith grows with the desire to find the way. It is a gift of God, who reveals himself to us not as an abstract entity without a face and without a first name. Faith is the answer to a person who wants to enter into a relationship of deep love with us and to involve our whole life. For this reason, our heart must live every day the experience of conversion, the desire to know better and to find its bread; every day it must see our passing from a man bent over himself to a man open to the action of God, a spiritual man who lets himself be challenged by the Word of the Lord and opens his life to his Love. ” Faith in Christ brings salvation because in him our lives become radically open to a love that precedes us, a love that transforms us from within, acting in us and through us. ” (Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei, n. 20)

Therefore, let’s nourish our faith every day with a profound listening to the Word of God, with the celebration of the sacraments, with personal prayer as a cry to Him and with charity towards our neighbor because faith, in the measure that is linked to truth of love, is not foreign to the “material” life and to our earthly bonds and affections. “The light of faith is an incarnate light radiating from the luminous life of Jesus.” (Cfr. Ibid., N. 34)

Finally, let us not forget that faith is not given to us to preserve it, but to communicate it; it is not preserved and does not grow if we do not have the passion to communicate it and to share it.

  • A question of quality and not of quantity.

Besides offering us the theme of faith, this Sunday’s Word of God reveals that the missionary announce has two basic features: perseverance and humility. Jesus clearly points out to his disciples that the way to follow, in order to be missionaries with him and like him, must be taken with a perseverant faith and a humility that freely put itself to the service of the announcement of the joyful and loving evangelic truth: the Kingdom of God is the Mercy of the Father.

In front of the request to put their lives in the Redeemer’s hands to serve his love, the disciples feel inadequate and consequently ask Jesus  ”Increase our faith”(Lk 17, 5).

Using the comparison of the mustard seed and the mulberry tree that cannot be uprooted by the storm because it is solid in the ground, Jesus teaches us that we don’t need so much faith as we often think. A little one is enough if it is a true one. In fact, a grain of true faith can uproot a tree because it is stronger than many roots.

Expanding the comparison, we can say that faith is to settle permanently in God. This settlement is a matter of quality and not of quantity, of authenticity and not of effort.  Moreover, this authentic entrustment to Him is joined with the acceptance of a project calculated on God’s possibilities and not on ours.

After the teaching not on the quantity but on the strength of faith (one grain is enough to uproot the tree), comes a parable( Lk 17, 7-10) that, at first sight, does not lack in implications that are humanly annoying. Does God behave like some hard to please masters that unrelentingly ask and demand and don’t give rest to their servants who must always be at their disposal?

Not at all. With a way of speech a bit paradoxical but clear, Jesus teaches that the strength of the Gospel is in the loyal service of the ones who have accepted God’s love, have their roots in the Son and share the Word made flesh in the tame power of the Spirit. Faith allows an authentic knowledge of God that involves the entire human being: it is a “knowledge” that gives flavor to life, a new taste of being, and a joyful way to live. Faith is expressed donating ourselves to the others and in a fraternity that makes us supportive, able to love without calculations or demands and with humility. In today’s Gospel Jesus says: “Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’. Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants[2] ; we have done what we were obliged to do.‘(Lk 17:7-10). As we can see, Christ is clear with his disciples (and today with us too). He specifies who the master is and who the servants are, what are the guidelines to follow to execute an order and what reward is due to those who do their duty. However, let’s not forget that in the last supper Jesus did exactly the opposite of the masters of the world. He, the Master of Heaven, invited and invites to the table the servants that have become his friends and that, astonished, let Him wash their feet. This is the amazing love of God for us.

  • Faith is missionary

     This is why:

Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives”. (Pope Francis Encyclical Letter “Lumen Fidei”, nr.4). It is a Love that even washes our feet and asks us to carry him in the world as missionaries of Charity.

Faith is to trust in God, in his word, and in his guidance along the obscure and impervious roads of life. As missionaries of the Truth, we must take it to all men and women so that they might know in whom to trust and who gives meaning to life.

Faith is to know that at the beginning of everything there is a Father who for love has got us out from nothing. We are not born by mistake without anybody predicting or desiring us. We are not at the mercy of a blind fate: we are in the hands of One who loves us and never abandons us, “ one who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). The purpose for which He came has been defined by Christ himself:” I came, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ” (Jh 17:2-3).

Faith is the light that allows us to see things with Christ’s eyes, to judge ideas and frenzies in the light of his teaching, and to become able to love the others in a new way that is the same clear and unbiased way with which He loves them. The strength of the announcement of the Gospel is not in founding new strategies of media effects in the northern part of the world or in planning humanitarian intervention in the southern part. The strength of the evangelization is in our being missionaries who operate with humility and the knowledge to be “unprofitable servants”. I think that I should say: servants who work freely but know to be like the yeast hidden in the dough, or the mustard seed that is not different from a grain of sand, but has such a vital energy that it can generate a tree whose leaves become a refuge for the birds running away from the storm of life.

Faith is to understand that the Holy Spirit sent by the Risen Lord, works in our hearts, helps us to discern good from bad, urges us to walk on the right path, and persuades us to behave like merciful men and women in a pugnacious and hard world. The aim of the faith we received is the mission. The mission is not for the Afterworld but for This World.

Faith is the conviction that we have been given the joy to belong to the Church, Bride and Body of Christ, Family of the Children of God and secure, certain and safe Place where we meet the Father.

For us, there is nothing more crucial, more satisfying and more rational than the theological virtue of faith. As evangelizer men and women, there is nothing more precious to be made subject of our prayer and of our mission.

In this regard the Consecrated Virgins are called in a special way to announce the Gospel as the Instruction Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago on the Ordo Virginum at No. 39 proposes: Their dedication to the Church is shown in their mission of illumining, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing, and freeing in their passion for proclaiming the Gospel, for building up the Christian community and for their prophetic witness of fraternal communion, in friendship offered to all, in caring proximity to the spiritual and material needs of the people of their time, in the commitment to work for the common good of society… Alert to the calls that come from the context in which they live and ready to put at the disposition of the Lord the gifts they have received from Him, they are called to make their own contribution to the renewal of society in the spirit of the Gospel. They accept without naivety or oversimplification the responsibility to develop cultural expressions of the faith and they adopt as their own the Church’s preference for those who are poor, suffering or marginalized”.

[1]   A mustard seed is as tiny as a flea; it is almost invisible. However, when it is put in the ground, grows very fast and in a year can become a 3 to 4 meters tall tree. The mulberry tree, on the contrary, is a long-lasting tree that can live up to 600 years. It has roots very deep that cling to the ground. It is a tree very difficult to uproot and for this reason, it is considered the symbol of solidity and firmness.

[2] Unprofitable is the literal and traditional translation of the Greek word “acreios”, but maybe the meaning is more like “simple servants” or “only poor servants”. The underlining is more on the gratuity then on the utility.  Let’s not take it “verbatim,” but let’s read the parable in the spiritual sense. In fact, it is difficult to think that God has created “unprofitable” men and women and even more if they demonstrate to have behaved in a just and right way.

Anyway, if we have done our duty and said, “we are unprofitable servants,” we can also add “however we have a friend that loves us above our expectations.” For this reason, we are safe in his hands. For this reason, Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta used to say “I’m only a small pencil in God’s hands”

 

About Archbishop Francesco Follo

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