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_“For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to the end -- it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. Behold, he whose soul is not upright in him shall fail, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” *(Habakkuk 2:3-4)*_
Last Sunday, Jesus told us the parable of the rich man and Lazarus; a powerful illustration of the need for us to avoid being indifferent to the plight of others suffering around us. If things are good for you, remember that there are many Lazarus’ lurking around you, help them even when they lack the courage to ask you directly.
Our Gospel passage today begins with a prayer from the twelve apostles of Jesus: “Lord, increase our Faith!” What prompted this prayer? Reading from verse 1 of Luke 17, we hear Jesus teaching two important topics: Avoidance of scandal and Forgiveness of others continuously. The Apostles having examined their own hearts realized they had not fared very well in this regard. They wondered how possible it would be to do what Jesus is saying so they begged Him to increase their faith. In response, Jesus teaches us some important lessons about Faith.
*1. Faith Works Regardless of Size.*
As Jesus puts it: “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Be rooted up and planted in the sea’ and it would obey you.” One of the unique characteristics of the sycamore tree is that it had very large roots which could extend as far as sixty feet around the tree such that uprooting it was understood as an impossible task. More still, Jesus added that you could ask this tree to be planted in the sea and it will obey you which is again another impossibility given that a tree of that nature does not grow in the sea. In other words, Jesus is saying that with faith as little as a mustard seed, we can do the impossible. This means that it was wrong for the apostles to ask for an increase in faith. Jesus simply told them indirectly that they lacked faith.
Faith does not work according to size, if there is any iota of faith at all in you, you will do wonders. Faith, by itself, is big enough to enable us to do the impossible. In fact, there is no need for us to ask for big faith since faith on its own is powerful. Jesus only used the concept of a mustard seed to illustrate the point that when it comes to faith, size does not matter. I have seen many Christians who buy and chew mustard seeds in the hope that by so doing, their faith would increase. This is one clear example of reading the Bible out of context. Faith does not grow. It is either we have it or do not have it.
*2. Faith is Patience in Tough Times.*
Having shown the power of faith to accomplish the impossible, Jesus goes on to explain how faith works. Like good servants who have worked all day for their master, we do not get rewarded immediately. The servant must wait for the Master to finish his meal before he can have something to eat. This means believing in God is one thing but being rewarded for our faith entirely depends on God. The servant does not grumble when the Master refuses to thank him for the work well done, instead he waits for the Master.
Simply put, faith is patience. No wonder the book of Hebrews describes faith as the “assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). In other words, to have faith is to always remember that we are merely servants of God; the Master who knows how best to take care of His Children, the Master who will not give us scorpion when we ask for egg and will not give us a snake when we ask for fish. (Cf. Luke 11:11-13).
*3. The Righteous Shall Live by Faith.*
Our first reading today addresses one of the questions that often baffle us as Christians; “why do we continue to experience misfortunes despite our holiness and uprightness?” The Prophet Habakkuk wonders: “Why do you make me see wrongs and look upon trouble?” In response, God says to him: “For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to the end – it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come. It will not delay… the righteous shall live by his faith.” (Hab. 2:2-4)
This simply teaches us that faith in God is not a shield against tough times; it is rather a defence that keeps us going in tough times. Faith is remaining steadfast when it seems as if our prayers are falling on deaf ears. Faith is deciding never to give up on God no matter what happens. As Job was tested, we are faced with various forms of testing daily but faith alone keeps us going. St. Paul writing to Timothy in our second reading today says: “Do not be ashamed of testifying to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner but take your share of suffering for the Gospel in the power of God.” (2 nd Tim. 1:8).


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