Preached at Holy Sepulcher Parish on October 1, 2016 at 6:00PM and October 2, 2016 at 8:00am and 10:30am Masses
There was a woman who was very open about her faith. In fact she would often stand in the front of her home and shout “Praise the Lord!” to everyone who would pass by. She lived next door to an atheist who was constantly angry about her constant talk about her faith. Every time she would shout “Praise the Lord!” to someone, he would shout back, “There is no God!”
In time the woman lost her job and her savings, but she never lost her faith. One day she stood on her porch and said, “Praise the Lord! I am out of money and I need something to eat. God, if it is your will, send me some groceries.”
The next morning the woman went out on her porch and there was a large bag of groceries sitting there. “Praise the Lord!” she shouted. At that moment her neighbor jumped out from behind a bush and said, “I’ve told you many times there is no God. I bought the groceries for you, not God.” The woman replied, “Praise the Lord! You sent me groceries and You made the devil pay for them!”
A joke on the very important subject from today’s gospel – faith. It’s a very serious topic, although to be honest, I think that Jesus is having fun with his disciples with his answer to their question about faith. They ask Jesus to increase their faith and instead he responds by giving them an example of what faith can do. “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed…” On Sundays my grandmother would wear a crystal pin with a mustard seed in it. The crystal would magnify the seed, and yet it was so tiny that you could still barely see it. “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.” Nowhere in the gospels is it recorded that the disciples ever did that. Jesus is inferring that before the disciples increase their faith, they should first consider having faith, because if they have the smallest amount, they would do incredible things, like move a mulberry tree into the sea.
I’m pretty sure that none of us here have moved a tree by faith into the sea either, so we probably don’t have faith either. Although feel free to prove me wrong about your faith by remaining in your seat and moving the tree that is outside of that window and putting it outside of this window before my homily is over.
I don’t think our problem is our faith, but our understanding of it.
First, faith is so much different than the rest of our modern lives. We live in a world where seeing is believing. We have cellphone cameras, video surveillance, instant replays, DVRs, and all this stuff that is recording almost everything we do at any given moment. We can watch something over and over until it becomes clear to us. We don’t like to have doubts or ambiguity in our lives and these things help us to see. We want to know everything and we want to know it now. Thanks to Google and the Internet it’s easy to get the answer to just about anything in a matter of seconds: the weather, news from all over the world, how to bake a cake, how many mustard seeds in a pound (which by the way is 211,200), and everything else. We like proof backed by scientific evidence and research.
In today’s society people sound just like Habakkuk in today’s first reading, complaining about violence, ruin, misery, destruction, strife, and discord. Everything is a mess to them. But seeing with the eyes of faith calls us to look at things differently. In faith we recognize that things are not always clear or easy. Things happen so much slower than we want them to be. We don’t always know. But we trust that God knows and has a plan. We have to be patient. God’s reply to Habakkuk, “If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.” We have to let go of our need to control. We have to “let go and let God,” as the Praise the Lord woman did when she needed groceries.
Next, we have to recognize that faith is not a verb. It is not something you can do like love or hope or run or jump. We can’t say that we are “faithing” right now at Mass and when someone asks us what we did this weekend, we can’t tell them that we “faithed” this weekend. You can’t do faith. Yet we try to do faith. We like to say that we practice our faith as if it is something that we can get better at by doing more of it, like we are learning to play an instrument or ride a bike.
The crystal that contained the mustard seed that my grandmother wore was attached to a big bow. When I was little I thought it was because she liked bows, but it is a symbol to represent that faith is a gift. We can only receive faith from God. We simply go to our Lord as the apostles did and say, “Lord, increase my faith.” We go to the Lord to receive faith and not the other way around. We don’t get faith so that we can approach God. If we try to build up enough faith on our own so that we can get to the Lord, we will never get to Him.
Lastly, faith is not easy, it is hard. The reason that faith is hard is because it is a relationship between you and God, and relationships are by nature hard. They involve a lot of work. It takes time to truly get to know someone. I have known my wife for well over 20 years and there are still times that I scratch my head because I don’t understand her. So often I have no idea what she is talking about or what she is thinking. Sometimes I even wonder if I know her at all.
Now wrapping your head around an infinite God and having a relationship with Him is incredibly harder than having a relationship with your spouse or your best friend. Knowing what our Lord is saying and thinking can be very, very hard, but not impossible. You just have to spend regular, quality time getting to know Him as you would in any good relationship. But because it is an infinite God it takes time and patience. In fact it takes an entire lifetime.
The disciples may not have moved a mulberry tree by faith, but they accomplished some incredible and miraculous things in their lifetimes all because of their faith in Christ. We may not move a mulberry tree into the sea, or the tree outside from that window to this window, but we will accomplish amazing things because of our faith. It probably won’t happen overnight, because faith is a lifetime journey. But when we pray, attend Mass, go to youth group, CCD, the Discovering Christ program, or any time that you approach the Lord, we are working on our relationship with Him, and as a result we receive the incredible gift of the power of faith. Like anything of value it takes time, effort, and commitment on our part. But it is so worth it.
Habakkuk says in today’s first reading, “But the just one, because of his faith, shall live.” If we are open to receive it, faith will change our lives, now and forever.
Rejoice and be glad!