Have a little faith. Maybe you’ve had someone say those words to you, or perhaps you’ve said them to someone to offer them hope during a tough time. These words form the title of a good Mitch Albom book about two men (one a rabbi and the other a protestant minister) whose lives encourage others to believe in God when everything around them signals that they should give up and throw in the towel.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus begins by acknowledging the battle we face every day when He says, “Things that cause us to sin will inevitably occur (He knows our temptations…and continues,) but woe to the one through whom they occur.” In that second phrase, Jesus underscores that we must be on guard against inviting others to sin or misleading them about right and wrong—especially the young or those struggling with their faith.
But Jesus isn’t just teaching us about playing spiritual defense; He also wants us to be people of positive action. He notes that if your brother sins rebuke him. (In other words, find a constructive way to help him see his wrongdoing.) And, if he repents, forgive him—as many times as he repents, we’re to forgive. Jesus is asking us to do what God offers to each of us.
The Apostles get it and realize how they’ll struggle. So, they respond to Jesus by saying, “Increase our faith.” (It’s worth noting that they don’t ask why they should do this or say that they can’t do it.)
Jesus then encourages them by pointing out that if you have faith, even a little, it’s more powerful than you realize. He uses the image of a mustard seed which is about the size of the tip of a pencil, and says that if you have that much faith, you can uproot a mulberry tree. By the way, mulberry trees grow to between 30 and 80 feet tall!
My brothers and sisters, Jesus does call us to do hard things: guarding against leading others astray, charitably pointing out when others are doing wrong, and, if they repent being willing to forgive them, as God forgives us. But He makes the point that faith and degree of difficulty don’t work on a one-to-one ratio. God’s gift of faith is exponentially more powerful than we’d expect.
Keeping that in mind, we can ask ourselves, “What am I doing with the faith I’ve received?” Am I putting it to work or underusing it? And “Do I believe in Jesus’ words to the point that I’ll not only play spiritual defense but also be willing to lead others away from harm and back to the light of God? If you’re still wondering, just remember the simple encouragement, have a little faith, for God’s grace is more powerful than we know but something we learn only by daring to try.
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About Father David Marcham
Reverend David S. Marcham is the Vice Postulator for the Cause of Venerable Patrick Peyton, and Director of the Father Peyton Guild, whose members pray for Father Peyton’s beatification and spread his message of the importance of Family Prayer. Prior to becoming a seminarian, Father David was a physical therapist and clinical instructor, serving hospital inpatients and outpatients throughout the greater Boston area for eleven years. In 1998 he heard the call to priesthood and was ordained in the Archdiocese of Boston in 2005. Father David grew up in Quincy, MA, and has fond memories of playing soccer, tennis and running track. You’re never without a friend when Father David is around, as he welcomes everyone into his circle with a smile on his face!