Faith is the spark that enables. It is the ignition that moves us to action. It is the vision that allows us to see the sacred in the ordinary. This sense of reverence and sacredness is our heritage as children of the One God. But faithfulness to these ideals very often seems to take a less prominent role in today's society and to be very much threatened in our own time. These times call for a strong, courageous witness to the sacredness of life, of creation, of human dignity. What is required is a witness to justice and peace and to our common brotherhood in the family of mankind.
Each of the readings for this week's liturgy begins with a plea. The first reading is taken from the Prophecy of Habakkuk, who wrote about 600 B.C. shortly before the Babylonian invasion of Judah and the capture of the city of Jerusalem. Political intrigue and idolatry were widespread in Judah and Jerusalem at this period. The prophet is arguing with God about this state of affairs. Habakkuk seems to be undergoing severe testing from the violence that surrounds him and, worse, by God's seeming indifference. "I cry to you 'Violence!' but you do not intervene." He is confronted, he says, by "destruction and violence, strife and clamorous discord." And so he argues with God about this state of affairs. Why does God allow these things to happen?
The second reading is a letter of St. Paul, written from a Roman prison, to his own disciple, Timothy. Paul is most anxious that Timothy should come to him in Rome, but he does not forget to remind him of the need to continue preaching and persevering in the faith amid seemingly impossible odds. "So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake," he writes. "But bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God."
And finally in the Gospel, the disciples ask the Lord to increase their faith. Maybe they felt that they could accomplish more of His mission if only they had a little more faith. And He answers them by saying that faith is not something you can have more or less of. You either have faith or you are without it. Faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains and can uproot trees. Maybe we feel that way too. And the Lord's answer to us is the same.
Life requires a deep pool from which to draw patience and forgiveness. People and governments seem to be at a loss to find solutions for the violence the world is going through. We continue to receive news reports of military and civilian causalities in Ukraine. The world struggles with economic and climate hardship which cause millions to seek safe refuge,affordable healthcare and fulfillment of basic human needs. Daily we read reports of senseless violence in our own streets. And we continue to see how devastating the effects of polarization are on the life of our faith community and that of the world at large.
While we continue to seek answers, we should listen very attentively to the words of Christ set before us in the Gospel and recommit ourselves to His mission of peace and justice. We not only have to intensify the faith-life in our homes and families, but we have to somehow shut out and overcome the contemporary spirit that undermines the structures of Christian idealism, weakens our convictions, and tends to isolate our lives from the light and power of the Holy Spirit.
But this requires action.
Having faith means that we are in touch with God and experience God as the source of the power that enables us to live good Christian lives, marked by the ability to forgive many times as we ourselves have been forgiven by God and to cry out against the neglect of the poor and needy of our country and world, whose interests get put aside during times of war, politics and political campaigning.
In reality, faith is not something we have. It is something we practice. As Christians, what we are called to do may seem to be impossible, unreasonable, or without purpose. It might involve giving up our comfort, our health, our life or the life of someone we love, But if we trust, if we choose freely to live our faith, then we discover just how good God is, how tenderly and compassionately He will treat us. That is when we realize that we, too, can move mountains.
What are the demands of discipleship? How does Christ challenge us to use our gifts and talents to bring about a true change of heart and conversion of spirit? How much work is there yet for us to do?
How we answer these questions will determine whether or not we live our lives freely and without fear. The correct answers will enable us to know that our God is near, that He understands our pain, that He will sustain us and carry us through even though we may feel our faith is as small and insignificant as a mustard seed.