Several years ago, a series of self-help books whose title began, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” hit the best-seller list. As well-meaning as the author undoubtedly was, there was nevertheless something troubling about that title. In today’s gospel, Jesus turns that popular title upside-down. We do have to sweat the small stuff.
Jesus had just warned, instructed, and exhorted his followers about the demands of discipleship. He warned them about false teaching and those who entice others to sin. He instructed them about confronting sinners and – more importantly – the need to forgive them.
With such great expectations placed on their shoulders, the disciples promptly implored Jesus to increase their faith. But, as he often does, Jesus shifts the focus of their request. Faith is not a matter of quantity, Jesus teaches them, but of its presence. The presence of faith in their lives is more crucial than its quantity. Faith, even as tiny as a mustard seed, Jesus assures them, can accomplish much.
For us, as for the first disciples, faith is not a single moment, but an ongoing and essential dimension of our journey. Within the depths of our souls, in a quiet and mysterious way, God is always doing something new in our lives. Indeed, great things can emerge from the small stuff of our faith. Even faith the size of a mustard seed will do.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.