1) A question of quality not quantity
This Sunday’s Word of God reveals that what the missionaries announce has two basic features: perseverance and humility. Jesus clearly points out to his disciples that the way to follow 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 they 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 the 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 not quantity, of authenticity not of effort. This authentic entrustment to Him is then 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 that, at first sight, is not lacking 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, who 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 expresses itself donating oneself to the others in a fraternity that makes 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[ii] servants; 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 servant is, what are the guidelines to follow to execute an order and what reward is due to the one who does his 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.
2) The faith is missionary
And 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 <em>Encyclical Letter LUMEN FIDEI, nr.4). It is a Love that even washes our feet and asks us to carry it in the world as missionaries of Charity.
Faith is to trust in God, in his word, in his guidance on the obscure and impervious roads of life. As missionaries of the Truth we must take it to all men and women so that they 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 expecting 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, “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: “Give glory to your son, so that he may give eternal life to all you gave him. Now this is eternal life, 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, 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 that operate with humility and the knowledge to be “unprofitable servants”. I think that I should translate: 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 on the run 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, convinces 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 Sons and Daughters 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; of it there is nothing more precious to be made subject of our prayer and of our mission as evangelizer men and women.
XXVII Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C- October 6, 2013
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[i]
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
[i] 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 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.
[ii] 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 the Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta used to say “I’m only a small pencil in God’s hands”