Homily for the twenty-seventh Sunday of the year - Year C - Lk. 17:5-10
Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
" The apostles said to the Lord, «Increase our faith!» And the Lord said, «If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea, and it would obey you.»
" «Will any one of you, who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep, say to him when he has come in from the field, Come at once and sit down at table? Will he not rather say to him, Prepare supper for me, and gird yourself and serve me, till I eat and drink; and afterward you shall eat and drink? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.» "
" The apostles said to the Lord, «Increase our faith!» And the Lord said, «If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea, and it would obey you.» "
The passage from Saint Luke's gospel which we read today can be also found in the gospel of Saint Matthew, where Jesus said: "For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, «Move from here to there,» and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you." (Mt. 17:20) Aren't Jesus' words in the gospels of Saint Luke and Saint Matthew surprising? A tree that obeys man? A mountain that does what man tells it to do? How is it possible for a plant, a tree, which can't move, to move itself to a new location at the command of man? How can an inanimate object - a mountain - do what man orders it to do? This gospel leads us to ask so many strange questions!
It seems clear that all this must not be taken literally. That is: it is not possible to take literally that a tree could obey man, for obeying is an action that requires intelligence and will, two faculties which a tree does not have. And since this sentence cannot be taken literally, we must apply the meaning of this sentence to man, and not to a tree. If a man believes that a tree could be planted in the sea, then it will happen, but it is God who, being all-powerfull, will act in order that this tree be planted in the sea. But it is not the tree that will move itself into the sea. And the same reasoning follows concerning the mountain.
But then, what do these words really mean? What Jesus means is that, through faith, the Christian dominates the material world in an absolutely sovereign manner. And therefore, through faith, the Christian fully dominates himself, for, as Christ said, man is, par excellence, the "creature" (Mk. 16:15). Through faith, man dominates himself fully: he takes possession of all his abilities, of all the faculties which God has given him since the creation. He who believes becomes a perfect image of God, he is re-created in Christ, with whom he is united through this same virtue of faith!
" «So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.» "
The Christian believes in Christ with all his heart! He dominates himself fully through his love of God! This means that, with regard to God, the Christian assumes an attitude of submissiveness and respect. The tree that obeys man, and the mountain that does what we tell it to do, serve as models for the Christian! If these creatures are subject to man, then man, who is the creature par excellence, must also be subject to man and therefore also to God, for here man is His image! The Christian, someone who believes in Christ, true God and true Man, is he who recognizes God as his master; and he therefore acts as a servant of God in the faith! "We are unworthy servants..."
A servant of God! What a beautiful image! But how difficult it can sometimes be to actually live out this image! Christ himself is first among the Servants of God. He was, above all, the suffering servant, who became obedient to the point of death, death on the cross (cf. Phil. 2:8). Jesus came to earth in order to serve His Father, in order to accomplish His will, so that our own service might be both possible and fruitful. For the grace of faith we need to serve God was merited for us by Jesus when He suffered His Passion and died on the Cross of Calvary.
What greater service can there be than that which we will perform today as we celebrate the Eucharist? For it is truly a service, the most mysterious one on earth: it is the service of the Mystery of Faith! There is, then, no doubt that Mary is present among us at this moment, for she declared herself to be the handmaid of the Lord! In this Mystery of Faith, in which the entire Church, in Heaven and on Earth, is present, let us ask the Lord for the spirit of service! Let us speak to the Lord as the apostles did, and say: "Increase our faith!"