Sunday, October 6
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 17: 5 – 10
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
The Lord replied,
“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.
“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;
we have done what we were obliged to do.'”
Imagine you are in a foreign country trying to buy lunch at a food cart or booth, but neither you or the cook speak the same language. One of the hand gestures you might instinctively use is to put your thumb and index finger together so that they are almost-but-not-quite touching each other. While pointing at the gelato or fries or whatever, you would make this “small amount” hand gesture while saying over and over: a little bit, un poco, ein bisschen, un petit peu, or whatever. And 9 times out of 10, the merchant is going to understand this communication about the amount you want of that particular item.
Although most of us suburban Americans hear “mustard” and instantly visualize a yellow squeeze bottle, when we actually see a mustard seed held between two fingers, we realize Jesus is invoking this same common imagery that we utilize in the “small amount” hand gesture. Jesus’ original audience, living much more farm-to-table, hand-to-mouth than we are typically, would have often held unground mustard seeds in their own hands.
Our Lord’s analogy communicated clearly to them that “just a ‘tiny bit’ of faith is needed to achieve great things.” This is part of the core teaching of Christianity. We can do a little good on our own, yes, but nothing like the good that results when we have faith in God and cooperate with His grace. Not in regards to our eternal salvation alone, but even in ordinary life and our outreach ministries and apostolates.
In the language of modern organizations, God’s grace is the ultimate “force multiplier” that can take the tiniest, itty-bitty, nascent shred of faith and amplify its’ abilities and results beyond all earthly expectations! All we need to bring to the table is just ‘a little bit’ of faith!