THE APOSTLES ASK JESUS TO INREASE THEIR FAITH
(Biblical reflection on the 27th Ordinary Sunday [Year C] – 6 October 2018)
Gospel Reading: Luke 17:5-10
First Reading: Habakkuk 1:1:2-3;2:2-4; Psalms: Psalm 95:1-2,6-9; Second Reading: 2Timothy 1:6-8,13-14
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 the sycamore 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.’” (Luke 17:5-10 RSV)
Today’s Gospel reading gives us a good example of how Near Eastern teachers like Jesus sometimes used exaggeration to emphasize a point. The apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith the size of a mustard seed could command a sycamore tree be uprooted and thrown in the sea, and it would happen.
Black mustard bushes grew wild along the shores of the Sea of Galilee not far from Capernaum where Jesus living during His public ministry and where He did much preaching. Ancient people used the mustard plant for oil, as a condiment, and as an herb, so it was a common ingredient in the foods Jesus and His apostles ate.
Sycamore trees produced a small, yellow, sweet fig-like fruit. Growing along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea made the sycamore the logical choice for the tree cast into the sea in today’s Gospel.
In many of the Gospel stories about Jesus’ miracles, faith is the reason He is able to make the lame walk, the blind see, and the sick whole. On the other hand, a lack of faith explains the only time in the Gospels when Jesus is not able to heal (Mark 6:1-6a).
Recognizing the power of faith, the apostles ask Jesus to give them more of it. Jesus’ response is that this is not necessary because even with only a small amount of faith nothing is impossible.
In the second part of today’s Gospel, Jesus tells a story about a servant who spends his entire day plowing the field or herding sheep. When the servant returns home in the evening, his work is still not complete because he has to put on his apron, prepare supper, and wait on his master’s table. Being a good servant means the master’s wishes are more important than his own comfort.
Just as the servant’s work is never done, we should never consider our service to God to be complete. There is always more we can do to spread the word about God’s love and forgiveness. We can never say we have done our share to build God’s Kingdom and now it’s someone else’s turn. We can never take a break from being a follower of Jesus.
Let’s pray today for those who passed on to you their faith in Jesus. Pray for our parents, priests or ministers, religion teachers, and anyone else who helped you and I develop a closer relationship with the Lord, Jesus.
(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 322-323.)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are useless servants. We have done no more than our duty. Yet we trust in You to increase our faith and our love. Amen.
Jakarta, 5 October 2019
A Christian Pilgrim