In today’s gospel, the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith and he essentially says no. Instead, he says that the faith they have, even if it’s small as a mustard seed, can do great things. Isn’t that a little shocking? Wouldn’t you expect Jesus to be delighted and enthusiastically reward their desire for greater faith? What was he trying to do?
It reminds me of high school when I had my first speaking role in a play. I loved plays and auditioned every year, but usually got cast as a member of the "chorus", those background players that walk across the stage behind the stars or sing in large groups. I was scared of being so visible, and afraid of making a mistake. I practiced constantly, yet I knew I wasn’t as experienced as the lead players and I felt inadequate.
I told the director my fears. He said, "Amy, God has given you the talent you need. You don’t have lots of experience, but you have everything you need to do this part. Don’t worry – experience and knowledge will come. Just go out there and do what you can do, and believe me, it will be more than enough." I have never forgotten his words. He believed I could do this with what I already had, and that I’d only get better.
Is that what Jesus was trying to do with his disciples? Perhaps they were waiting to do the work they were called to do because they felt inadequate. They wanted to imitate Jesus, but they knew they didn’t have that level of faith. Perhaps, then, he was telling them not to wait to achieve some perceived competency. Perhaps he was even a bit impatient, telling them to quit making excuses why they couldn’t do the work that needed so desperately to be done. The little faith they already had was sufficient and, like any seed, once planted and watered it would grow over time.
My lesson, then, is that I don’t have to be perfect in order to do God’s work. I don’t have to be a saint to help bring the Reign of God into being. I am called to act right now, with the gifts and talents God has already given me. Instead of waiting to have more faith, what I really need to do is to start changing the world one mulberry bush as a time.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. See Amy’s website: http://www.amyflorian.com/.