Today’s Gospel from Matthew is an opportunity to reflect a bit on Faith. Faith is a freely given gift from God. So then why does Jesus seem so exasperated with his Apostles for not having enough faith to drive out the demons? Why does he admonish them about the size of their faith? Yes, faith is a gift from God, planted in our heart and soul, but it’s up to us to make sure it takes root. So here are the Apostles, constantly with Jesus – seeing him live and in action-as it were. Of everyone in the Bible surely these men were given the gift of faith. But the question Jesus seems to ask them throughout the New Testament is what are you doing with it? Throughout the New Testament Jesus asks them questions that we could paraphrase today as “…don’t you get it, yet? …Hey, I’m not always going to be with you…hurry up, get on board…”
So when Jesus tells us that with even a little growth in faith, maybe just to the size of a mustard seed, we could cure demons or walk on water or move mountains, or perform other miracles he really means it. And make no mistake, while Faith is a gift, it’s up to us to nurture, to tend that Faith that’s been implanted in us, to grow it to the size of a mustard seed. We grow and enrich our Faith by prayer and the Sacraments, by spiritual reading, and by the ways we love God and one another.
In our first reading from Deuteronomy, the Israelites are told to love the Lord with their whole being…. and then told how to do that. The time sequence in this reading suggest that the people are being prepared for a time when it will be harder to love God with their whole being, a time when, with no effort on their part, they will have their fill to eat. Do you find it harder to love God when you have all that you need and then some? It seems to me that when we have much, our lives are also filled with with a desire to acquire more and with all the activity that requires. Sometimes it is hard to find room for God. We do know that our faith is built upon love of God, and if we are to have faith that cures, forgives, evangelizes and grows, we must first love God completely.
Let us pray to St. Dominic, whose feast day we celebrate today, for the gift of Faith, for the ability to grow that faith and that the love of God will permeate our lives even in the midst of our activities and busyness.
Mary Lou Butler is a long-time friend and partner in ministry to the Passionists in California.