Hab 1:2-3;2:2-4; 2 Tim 1:6-8,13-14; Lk 17:5-10
“Increase Our Faith”
He was an avid gardener with a proverbial green finger and he was proud of his beautiful garden full of rare plants bearing beautiful flowers all year long. He took great care of the plants- weeding, watering, manuring, pruning for hours together everyday. There was one plant, however that never gave flowers, no matter how much care was bestowed on it. It grew tall and study with wide branches, deep roots and rich foliage. But not a tiny bud appeared year after year. Friends and family advised him to uproot the “useless” plant. He would not listen. He knew it was a rare plant. He was convinced that his labour was not in vain. He believed that the plant indeed would bear flowers one day and it would be a veritable feast to the eye. And so he kept on digging, weeding, manuring, pruning and watering, day after day, month after month, year after year, for twelve long, laborious years, and then the miracle happened. There were hundreds of flowers! Gorgeous, delicate, fragrant, multi-hued! That was indeed a feast to the eye! It was a rare plant which flowered only once in twelve years! And now the faith and patience of the gardener were richly rewarded. People came from far and wide to enjoy the beauty and taste the fragrance. His family was proud and friends applauded him. He was content. All his sweat and tears had finally borne fruit.
Faith is like that. It is believing in something and someone beyond the limits of logic. Faith is to be convinced that the world is a pleasant place despite all the miseries and problems, chaos and confusion, violence and vengeance that scar and singe the human psyche. Faith is to see a sliver of silver lining amidst the darkness, desolation, destruction and despair we see everywhere. Faith is to believe in the ultimate goodness of human nature, the essential promise of human existence and the certain reward of human endeavour. For, finally, what is faith? Faith is a deep conviction that the world is really our home, that reality is really positive, that selflessness is truly possible, that relationships can indeed lead us to build communion, that human endeavour is never a waste, that heaven is within every person’s reach, that all people are saved, that, it is possible for everyone to enjoy deep peace, profound joy and enduring love. In the words of Juliana of Norwich “All things shall be well.” Why? Because God is there. God takes care of us. God loves us. Nothing that God creates is useless. For God does not create junk. And so, we are precious. We are valuable. Therefore we are loved. We are needed.
Faith gives meaning to life. Our existence has a purpose. Our life has a goal. Our strivings will be fruitful. Our struggles are not in vain. Our sufferings are not wasted. Our pains lead to success. And all this because we know that our destiny is in God’s hands. Therefore we are secure. We are at peace. We can be like ships sailing on stormy oceans in perfect peace. Like a bridge over troubled waters we can lay ourselves down. As the saying goes: “I do not know what the future holds for me. But I do know who holds my future.” Or, in the words of St. Paul: “I know the one in whom I have trusted.” That is it! Trust! Ultimately, faith is trust. Trust springs from love.
Trust comes from familiarity. We do not trust strangers. We do not trust unknown people. We do not trust those who hate us. We trust only those we are sure that they love us and wish us well. Therefore faith is a relationship – a relationship of love and trust.
Where there is love and trust one learns to take risks in loving, risks in trusting. The familiar story of a person hanging by a tiny root at the edge of an enormous precipice crying out to God for help, being then challenged to let go of his hand if he really trusted is quite apt here. Then there is the very moving incident of a little boy, unable to see for thick smoke, blindly jumping from the balcony when his father said: “Son, jump. You cannot see me but I am down here. I will catch you, jump.” These tell us what true faith is.
When the first reading of today says, “the upright shall live by faith” it means precisely this. Our broken, painful, wounded human situation might sometimes make us cry out in anguish: “How long Lord? How long shall I cry for help? When will you listen to my plea?” But our relationship of love and trust in God will soon make us hold on in sheer faith, hoping against hope as Abraham did. It is this gift of faith that Paul exhorts us that we should fan into flame until it blazes strong and bright. It is not the faith understood as intellectual assent to a body of truth, but the surrender of the heart in love and trust, springing from our being image and likeness of God as humans, and children of the Father because of baptism.
This inner flame is apt to die down to embers covered by the ashes of our preoccupations, anxieties, worries and attachments, as also our woundedness and sinfulness. When these ashes are removed and the flame blazes bright and strong within us, we receive the spirit of power, love and discipline enabling us to bear a powerful witness to the Lord even if it costs us much. We are not alone. The Holy Spirit comes to our help and it is the Holy Spirit who gives us the grace to work the wonders of God’s power same as uprooting mighty mountains and relocating them elsewhere. And because it is the grace of God that will be at human strength, we remain grateful and humble as unworthy but loved servants.