Homily for the twenty-seventh Sunday of the Year - Year C - Lk. 17:5-10


by

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.'» "




Homily:


" 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.» "


Today we have a rather short Gospel. But this text has the advantage of providing us with a complete lesson on faith and on our relation with God. For, what is faith if not the supernatural virtue through which eternal life is already begun in us (cf. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, IIa IIae, q. 4, a. 1, corp.)? Indeed, through faith, we already share in the very life of God: we live in communion with God.


However, we do not see God. As long as we are on this earth, and not yet at home with our Father, God remains invisible to the eyes of our body. We believe in God, whom we do not see, in God who, however, has revealed himself to us in Jesus, his Son, "the Image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15). But, precisely because God revealed himself in Jesus Christ, faith nonetheless gives us a certain vision of God, a wholly supernatural vision, a vision that is perceived only by the soul, and not by the body...


To believe in God: this is the most marvellous thing we can accomplish on earth! The act of faith is also what most pleases God! For he who truly believes in God - with all his heart, with all his being, with all his strength - truly renounces all that is not God, he renounces even his own person, in order to love only God and to be one with him. This is what pleases God. So there is no doubt that it was the Spirit of God who led the apostles to ask of Jesus: "Increase our faith!"


Of course, the answer of the Lord may seem like a reproach: "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." But it could just as well be an explanation. Did not Jesus, the Master of all, come to teach? In any case, whether it is a reproach or an explanation, the words of Jesus are words of gold, similar to those recorded elsewhere by Saint Matthew: "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)


" «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.'» "


This short parable, this object lesson, helps to complete Jesus' teaching on faith. Actually, here we are no longer dealing with faith, but rather with order and obedience. This is true. But these two things are one. When someone believes in God, whom he does not see, in God who reveals himself in his Son Jesus, he bows down and humbles himself before a being - the Being par excellence - who is infinitely wiser and more powerful than he is. He who believes in God does not do what he himself wants, but rather what God wants: he carries out the command of God, he obeys God, who dictates to him his Word in his Son Jesus.


But that is not all. For God does not act as men do. God does not act like the master described in the parable told by Jesus. Among men, he who humbles himself before his master, he who is the servant, will not see his master come and humble himself before him and treat him as an equal: "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?' " But things are not like that with God: when a man obeys God and does his will while believing in him, God also does the will of this man, and, in a way, God obeys the man.


Indeed, Jesus has just 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." Now, this would be a miracle, an exemption from the laws of nature: if a tree would cast itself into the sea, or if a mountain would suddenly move from one place to another by itself, due solely to the fact that we believed that God could do this, then there is no doubt that this would not be a natural act, but rather an act of God. If we do what God wants, then God does what we want!


Will we always see God obeying us? No. Only sometimes, and perhaps even seldom... This is not surprising. Faith is faith. As long as we are not in Heaven, we will not see God. Enough often, our lack of vision is due to our lack of faith, or a faith that is not strong enough to see God acting in our midst and doing our will... Moreover, have we merited it? Is faith not a grace, a free gift of God? Then let us be content to believe - as much as we can, as well as we can - and God will do the rest, whether we see it or not: "When you have done all that is commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.' "


The Most Blessed Virgin Mary always believed in God, in an absolutely perfect way. Her reward was to become the Mother of God, and, truly, she saw God obeying her in Jesus, her Son according to the flesh. But, when Mary saw her Son die on the Cross of Calvary, when she saw the fruit of her immaculate faith reduced to nothing by the executioners, then she could say, for a time that seemed interminable, a time that lasted until Easter morning: "When you have done all that is commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.' " Amen!



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