27th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Gospel –Lk 17:5-10

"
Faith – Am I living it?"

Preached by Fr Philip Heng, SJ at Church of St Ignatius – Singapore
on 6th Oct 2013

If I were to ask you to go back today and ponder on what you really want to achieve or dream of doing in your life, what do you think your answer would be like?  In all probability, many of us would be pondering on dreaming of becoming a doctor, lawyer, accountant, banker and the like.  These in themselves are good, but how many of us would include the important spiritual dimension in the dreams and desires in our lives?  My guess is that very few of us would answer, “My dream is to do God’s Will in my life.”

While earning a living is important, in today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us that whether we are priests, religious or a lay persons, our purpose in life is to be a “servant” of God’s Will.  And, Jesus adds that, if we are to dedicate and serve His Will, then we are “merely doing our duty” and living the way that we are meant to live.  While it may have to remain an optimistic hope that one day, all of us would dream of serving God’s Will as the top priority of our lives, Jesus in today’s Gospel is reminding us that it is important for us to reflect on the spiritual options and reality of our lives.

If we were spiritual enough our reflection could have been expressed as follows:

         
If I could be anything I wanted to be
          I would be a mender.
I would have always loved to mend things
          and make them useful.
If I could be a mender,
          I would first mend all the broken
          hearts in the world.
Then, I would mend all the broken homes
          and all the broken friendships.
Then I will mend all the sickness of
          the people and all the abuses
          of women and children.
But, as I know I can’t do all these,
          I believe and trust that God can.
So, I will just have to mend the things I can,
          and leave the rest to God
(Anonymous)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus missioned the apostles to proclaim the Good News of Salvation.  In the face of the challenges they encountered, they asked Jesus, “Lord increase our faith.”

           

There is a story of a newly married couple who wanted to have a child but, could not conceive one for many years in their marriage.  So, they approached their old and devout Parish Priest for advice.  The Parish Priest immediately retorted, “Oh that’s very easy, just go to Lourdes and light a candle at the grotto of Our Lady and your prayers will be granted.”

The Parish Priest being very busy forgot about this couple.  However, some ten years later, he suddenly remembered this couple.  So, he decided to look them up to see how they are.  When he arrived at the house and rang the doorbell, a young boy opened the door and when the priest asked, “Where is mommy?” he said, “Mommy is in the kitchen.”  So the priest entered the house . . . as he was making his way to the kitchen, there were many children of all ages jumping around and yelling at one another . . . he told himself, “Wow, what a commotion.”  He then managed to find the kitchen, there he found a woman carrying a young child and doing some cooking . . . looking somewhat exhausted and stressed.

So, the Parish Priest asked her, are you so and so, whom I met some ten years ago?  She turned round and replied, “Yes, Father, that’s me.”  Who are all these children are they yours?  “Yes, Father, they are all mine.”  “But, where is your husband?”  “Should he not be here to help you?”  “Yes, Father, he should but, he has gone to Lourdes to blow off the candles!”  It is very true that God answers our prayers and often gives us beyond what we ask of Him, if we have faith in Him.

             

Jesus says in today’s Gospel that if our faith is the size of a mustard seed which is no larger than a dot on a page, we can say to the mulberry tree, which has the strength of its roots to resist 600 years of harsh weather conditions, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”  In this graphic description, Jesus is asserting that if we have faith in God, then we would have the greatest force in the world.  No other powers, regardless of its military might of political clout or global influence can in any way be compared to the divine power of God, who is almighty.

While we all know that this is true many of us still tend to be like Thomas the apostle; we need visible verification before we believe.  For such “doubting faith of Thomas, Jesus says, “Thomas, you believe because you see, happy are those who do not see but yet, believe.”  It was once rightly said that “The person who says, “unless I feel, I will not believe”, is as narrow and foolish as the person who says, “unless I understand, I will not believe.” (cf. R.H.Benson.)

We can then see why Mary’s “Yes” to God’s invitation that she be the Mother of Jesus our Saviour is the model of all believers, as she believed wholeheartedly in the Father’s Will and entrusted her whole life to fulfilling it even though her “yes” could have caused her to be stoned to death for bearing a child before he marriage.

But, if our faith is the size of a mustard seed and, if we want to grow it and live it, then one of the most important criteria is to learn to be a better listener.  This poem gives us some good insights on how we can listen better:

         

Teach me to listen, O God, to those nearest me,
my family, my friends, my co-workers,
Help me to be aware that no matter what words I hear,
the message is, “Accept the person I am. Listen to me.”

Teach me to listen, my caring God, to those far from me, --
the whisper of the hopeless,
the plea of the forgotten,
the cry of the anguished.

Teach me to listen, O God, to myself.
Help me to be less afraid to trust the voice inside –
In the deepest part of me.

Teach me to listen, Holy Spirit, to Your voice
in busyness and in boredom,
in certainty and in doubt,
in noise and in silence.
Teach me, Lord, to listen, Amen
(cf. Adapted by John Veltri,S.J.)

        

When we are a more “listening person” we will become more in tuned with God’s Spirit who will prompt us to sense, seek and serve His Will in our own hearts and in others.  And when we continue to live such a discerning life, we will then be able to develop and deepen our relationship with Jesus and discover more clearly that our purpose in life is truly to serve God the Father’s Will and live in His Ways.  This is Jesus’ challenge in today’s Gospel to all of us.

Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.

                                  

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