Ordinary 27th Sunday

Hab. 1: 2-3, 2: 2-4                                2Tim. 1: 6-8, 13-14                   Lk. 17: 5-10



“Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.” – George Seaton.


In the gospel, we see the disciple requesting Jesus, “Increase our faith.” Faith is a very basic requisite to live our lives more fruitfully and happily. William James, one of the leading thinkers of the late nineteenth century, said in his most famous book The Varieties of Religious Experience that faith is “the sense of life by virtue of which man does not destroy himself, but lives on. It is the force by which he lives.” Faith has got many layers of meaning. Let us see a few of them.

a). Faith is our ability to believe in the power of something. It is said that when Napoleon was a child, his grandmother gave him a green stone and said, “This is a magical stone. Whatever you ask for with full faith for many days, you will get it.” He believed her words and everyday by looking at the stone, he would say, “I want to be the king of this country. I know that you have the power to make me so.” Eventually he became so. After his death, the stone was analysed and it was found out that it was a very ordinary stone. It was his faith in the words of his grandmother that made him so.

In today’s psychology, the word ‘belief’ is so much used. When a person strongly believes in the depth of one’s being that something will certainly happen, eventually it will become a reality. There are people who constantly and continuously recite some positive affirmations with a lot of faith and consequently experience the power of those affirmations manifest in their lives. For example, by constantly reciting ‘I am happy to be me,’ we will find ourselves growing in self-acceptance. The constant nagging of inner self-criticism will begin to subside. It is against this background that today’s psychology claims that by changing our mindset (which is responsible for our ‘beliefs’), we can change our life. The inner creates the outer.

b). Faith is our ability to believe in the power of someone. Normally children believe that their parents are super-human and this faith makes them be more relaxed and peaceful. They don’t carry everything in their head. As we grow in our age, we are called to develop such a deep faith in God, our Parent. Most of us are tensed and anxious in life because we take everything too seriously. Most of us believe that it is we who run our lives, completely forgetting that it is God who acts through us. A strong faith in God will allow us to surrender everything unto God and be more relaxed and serene. A middle-aged man, vexed with the various problems of life, went to a sage and said, “My problems are innumerable. I spend sleepless nights. Kindly show me a way out.” The sage replied, “Everyone has problems. If you suffer so much out of your problems, then it is not so much because of problems, but because of your mindset towards problems.” The man responded, “Kindly tell me how I can change my mindset.” The sage asked him, “Tell me whether there was a time in life in which you did not suffer so much.” He answered, “Yes. It was when I was a child.” The sage said, “Exactly! become a child once again. Become a child of God and experience His protection. You will not have anything to fear or worry about.”

In the first reading, through the prophet Habakkuk, God told the enslaved Israelites to be patient and to have faith without giving room for any discouragement. He told them that a life of freedom would certainly visit upon them: “it will surely come, it will not delay.” In the second reading, St Paul invites Timothy to “hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” It is this faith in God that the Bible invites us to deepen. The word FAITH can be expanded as ‘Face Anything In Trusting Him.’ Thomas Merton, a famous spiritual author, puts across the same point in different words, “In every case, faith is simply a total, unswerving acceptance of the person of Christ as a source of salvific power and of new life.”

c). Faith is our ability to focus on the very actions that we do now though the fruits/results of those actions are out of our sight. It is the normal human tendency to look for results or benefits when we perform certain actions. For example, when a farmer works hard in his field, he expects a plentiful harvest. When a person does regular physical exercise, s/he wants to have a healthy body. Here the irony is that only the actions are under our control. The fruits of our actions are not under our control. Results may or may not happen as per our expectations. The results may elude us even for a long period of time. There are people who work on their emotional life for a long period of time, but don’t experience any tangible result as such. In spite of their persistent effort, they might feel that they are heading nowhere. It is the same case with many other problems of our life – improving our financial situation, developing certain talents etc..

When the expected results don’t turn up, there is a temptation to give up; We begin to bemoan that all our hard works and efforts have gone waste. However it is only those people who believe in the basic goodness of God, can continue to work, with the mindset that ‘God, because of His basic goodness, will not allow my hard work to go waste: His plans and ways of managing things are different from mine (Cfr. Is. 55: 8,9) So in due time He will answer my hard work.’ With such a mindset, they persevere in their action. So we can say that faith is our ability to focus on our actions without much focusing on the fruits of those actions. It is our ability to persistently continue to do the good things though their results are out of sight. This is the precise invitation of Jesus in the gospel today. He invites us to say, after doing all that we can do, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

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