October 6, 2019
The apostles in today’s gospel are worried about their faith. Perhaps they are beginning to realize that when they arrive in Jerusalem, events will lead to the cross. Maybe it is beginning to dawn on them, how much strength they will need if they are to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth. Whatever the reason, they are feeling short on faith. So they say to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” They are not confident that the faith they have is enough. The apostles’ fear is ours as well. When we look forward to the challenges we will have to face, the problems that lie on the horizon, how can be sure that our faith will be strong enough to get us through?
One of the blessings of being a priest is that you are able to walk with people through crisis situations. One of the most tragic situations that I’ve ever faced concerned a woman from my former parish of St. Noel. We will call her Sharon. Sharon was 30 years old, married with two small children, 3 and 6 years old. She was diagnosed with an aggressive and deadly form of cancer. For ten months, I visited Sharon as she faced one invasive procedure after another, as her pain increased, and as she in time resigned herself to her upcoming death. In every one of those meetings, I was impressed by the strength of her faith. She would often say, “I know that Jesus is with me, and I’m sure he will never let me go.” When I spoke to Sharon for the last time, a few days before her death, I shared with her what a deep impression her faith had made on me. In all honesty, I said, “Sharon, if I had to face what you have faced, I am not sure I would have had enough faith to deal with it.” She smiled at me and said, “When I was first diagnosed, I panicked. I said to myself, ‘I will never be strong enough to deal with this.’ But, Father, here is what I have learned. If you can pull together even two percent of the faith you need, God will provide the rest.”
I think Jesus would agree with Sharon’s statement. Because in today’s gospel, he tells the disciples that their faith need only be as big as a mustard seed, only a little bit of faith. That will be sufficient. That makes today’s gospel one of confidence and hope. If you are facing a crisis in your family, for which you can see no solution—a marriage coming apart at the seams, a child or a grandchild who has lost their way—Jesus asks to pull together just a little faith. That will make a difference. If you are bereft by the loss of someone you loved in life and can see no future ahead of you, if you look into the future and realize that if you live into your 90’s your health is going to fail, your strength will be reduced, and you will be dependent on others, Jesus says, “Gather together whatever faith you can find, and give it to me. We will face the future together.”
Sometimes we think that our faith has to be like that of Mary and the angels in heaven in order to cope with life. Jesus tells us today that it does not. Our faith need only be as big as a mustard seed. That will be enough, because God will make up the difference.