Faith in God presupposes faith in ourselves

Sometimes our life is overwhelmed by many issues and by people who will shake our faith and relationship with God.

Sep 30, 2022

                         Reflecting on our Sunday Readings with Fr Aloysius Tan

27th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)
Readings: Habakuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4;
2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14;
Gospel: Luke 17:5-10

Sometimes our life is overwhelmed by many issues and by people who will shake our faith and relationship with God. Some examples are human conflicts in the community, individuals who show negative elements in faith-witnessing and the scandals within Church communities. The list can go on and on, thus, there are many times we “hear” of people leaving the faith or leaving the Church due to various reasons.

Looking at these constant struggles of the human community, our mission works and evangelisation efforts seem to be “helpless” /in vain, as things go backwards when we face negativity and bad testimonies.

Perhaps, when we are faced with all these struggles, we might, like the disciples in today’s Gospel reading, ask Jesus to “increase our faith” too. We tend to push God to settle our struggles, give us the answers to all challenges and to offer us all solutions. Today as we reflect on these words: “increase our faith”, let us remember and acknowledge that we need to increase our faith not in “quantity”, but in “quality”.

“Quantity” of our faith might refer to the ability to show we are in relationship with God outwardly but quality of our faith reflects how deep we are in connection with Him. We face different challenges in life but with the quality of our faith, we will be able to move from the expression “Lord, I have BIG problems” to “Problems, I have a BIG / Almighty God!”

Thus, the use of the mustard seed as an analogy is a great invitation to go beyond our present circumstances, to trust God and to surrender ourselves into His mighty guidance. In fact, looking at the many occasions in life, we do manifest great faith. When a couple promises to hold on to each other in good times and in bad, each is, indeed, professing his/her great faith in God and in each other. When the religious or priests profess their vows or promises during their ordination or final profession, their YES shows the quality of their faith in surrendering their life to God.

Prophet Habakkuk seems to reaffirm the words of Jesus by telling us that the upright man will live by his faithfulness. (Hak 2:4) Faith leads us to go beyond our mental understanding, our logical thinking and our way to respond. Like the parable used by Jesus in today’s Gospel, the servant needs to trust, doing his best wholeheartedly as it is our faith that moves us to love and to serve God.

I remember a very powerful poster which I saw many years ago, where a little girl refused to give up her small teddy bear to Jesus, not knowing that Jesus was preparing a bigger teddy bear for her. I identify myself with the little girl in my struggles to saying YES to God because of the lack of faith and trust. In fact, many a time, God does invite us to do the same and we struggle to respond to Him with trust.

The best manifestation of trust perhaps, is ACTION. St James in his letter, challenges us with these words: faith without works (action) is dead. Yes, indeed we need to manifest our faith through our actions to testimonies. As we believe the gift from God is free of charge, we also trust the ability to be the living testimony which is itself a gift too.

So, we are challenged to live our life as Christians and live it by nurturing and developing the gift of faith. God, perhaps, also wishes to tell us: “Do your best and I will do the rest.” If we are willing to share our gift, our time and our talent, we can do wonders. We can do wonders in our families, in our communities, in our churches and in society. If we are not willing to share, nothing happens.

Faith in God presupposes faith in ourselves. Down through the history of the Church, so many great men and women of God, despite their unworthiness, despite their struggles, said YES to God by living their faith, one day at a time, and by surrendering everything to God, they showed the great miracle of uprooting the mulberry tree through their live witnessing.

Today, as we listen to the challenging invitation of Jesus to go beyond, let us strive to be the “servants”, acknowledging we are merely servants.... we have done no more than our duty. Let our light shine, in us and through us. The small flame of light and the small mustard seed both have the possiblity to make a BIG impact in our life and in the Church.
Lord, increase our faith! As the Church walks together in the process of the Synod of Bishops 2023, perhaps this phrase of the disciples can also be our prayer as a synodal Church. Many of us are sceptical and passive about the journey of synod, we ask many questions, we express a lot of doubts over what the Holy Father proposes. Perhaps, the same negative reactions also happened during Vatican II and other moments in the life of the Church, when we needed to make decisions with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Lord, increase our faith as a Church, trusting that you are the leading force, moving us forward. The synodal Church is a listening Church, a listening Church is a Church of faith.

Reflection: How can I increase my faith in my daily life, through my prayer life, through my charity efforts and through my living testimony?

(Fr Aloysius Tan from the Diocese of Penang. He is currently on sabbatical.)

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