THEME: A Mustard Seed of Faith is Enough

BY: Fr. Anthony O. Ezeaputa, MA.


In today’s gospel reading (Luke 17:5–10), Jesus and his Apostles engaged in two seemingly unrelated but interrelated conversations concerning the Christian faith, especially on how to advance in the Christian faith as they traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover.

The first part of their conversation is a request from the Apostles: “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5), while the second part is a demonstration of the right attitude of faith: “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, “We have done everything we were obligated to do” (Luke 17:10).

To begin with, the Christian faith or belief is based on the premise that “the desire for God is written in the human heart,” as stated in the Catechism, “because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself.” So, the Christian faith or belief is what we do about the pull or longing for God that is written on our hearts.

Furthermore, a Christian believer acknowledges that the “five natural modes of knowledge” (sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste) are not the only modes of knowledge. However, there is “a supernatural way” to connect with reality that can only be reached through “conversion” or “turning back” to Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:2).

The Apostles recognize in the first part of our gospel passage (Luke 17:5-6) that the tasks that Jesus assigned to them required more faith than they had. Thus, they asked him for more faith (Luke 17:5). Jesus recognized that, too, for he compared their faith to a mustard seed: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:6).

In ancient times, the mustard seed was thought to be the smallest of all seeds (Matthew 13:31–32). Thus, we can read into Jesus’ comparison of the apostle’s faith with the size of a mustard seed that, apparently, his apostles didn’t even have that much faith. Jesus is also telling his apostles that they didn’t need much faith to complete their tasks. Instead, with a mustard seed of faith, they can accomplish any task. In other words, the size of one’s faith does not matter (John 14:13).

Furthermore, when the Apostles asked Jesus to increase their faith, he did not reach into his pocket and hand each of them a well-wrapped faith. Neither does Jesus point them, perhaps to a store where they can purchase more faith.

In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, when Simon Magus observed that the Holy Spirit was given through the apostles’ laying on of hands, he offered Peter and Paul money and said, “Give me also this power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:19). But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money!” (Acts 8:20).

Similarly, the Christian faith cannot be purchased for money, whether in a store or online. Rather, it is a supernatural gift freely given through hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). Always, baptism is seen as an acceptance of the Christian faith: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31), St. Paul declared to his jailer in Philippi.

Moreover, just like natural gifts shine out when we train or use them, the supernatural gift of the Christian faith grows and flourishes in so many ways. For example, our faith grows stronger when we pray, take part in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, read the Bible, especially lectio divina and other spiritual books, and do good works. On the other hand, our faith will get weaker if we forget about our spiritual lives because we are too busy with other things.

Additionally, for our faith to grow stronger, we must be careful about our self-dialogue, especially when we pray. If you say to yourselves, “God doesn’t hear me,” you are already doing damage to your faith. However, if you say to yourself, “I trust that God loves me; I trust God will answer me in some way; I trust that God will not let me down,” you are making your faith strong.

In sum, faith is an expression of the love of God that is engraved in our hearts. It is a realization that there is more to existence than what the five senses can perceive. Additionally, faith is a supernatural gift from God that needs to be used if it is to grow. Besides, the size of one’s faith is irrelevant. However, it is the attitude of faith that makes a difference.

The attitude of the humble servant in the second part of our gospel (Luke 17:7–6) is what our attitude must be as we follow Jesus and seek an increase in our faith. We must be satisfied in knowing that “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.” We must be satisfied with allowing God to be God. He says that he makes everything beautiful in his time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Have a blessed Sunday!

Homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

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