And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, `I repent,’ you must forgive him.” 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 this sycamine tree, `Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17: 1-6)
There is not one of us who would want the experience of attempting to carry a millstone around our neck.
Yet, in truth, many Christians do. They may be unconscious of its weight but very mindful of the effect. The effect is when our faith no longer sustains us and we live a life of feeling despair more than hope.
The apostles in today’s scripture ask to have their faith increased. Jesus, in return, offers hope by pointing out that a little faith is sufficient if we just let it grow,
But letting it grow means that we need to live our lives doing our very best to bring alive his words in our life. Most often, the stumbling block to be fully alive in Christ is an inability to forgive.
One of the most important parts of our life of faith is our recognition that just as God never tires of forgiving us, we should never tire of asking him for forgiveness and of sharing a similar mercy with others.
It requires great humility to ask for forgiveness. It requires greater humility to give it. By his words today, Jesus is calling us not merely to give people a second chance, but an eighth chance. This forgiveness doesn’t mean pretending that the offense wasn’t sinful or scandalous; it doesn’t mean keeping or putting the person in a position where he or she can continue to injure others should the person fall again; but it does mean not holding their sin against them in a way that prevents they’re reconciling with God and others. But doing so is hard and to be capable of doing this, we need God’s help through the strength that comes from faith.
We can never know the liberating power of faith alive in our lives if we haven’t learned to forgive. Why is that?
To allow the mustard seed of faith to grow in our lives, we need to provide it fertile soil. That “soil” is our hearts. How can faith grow if we carry malice in our hearts? How can faith grow if we spend part of every day criticizing another? How can faith grow if we refuse to accept the fact that every person is created by God and our equal? How can our faith grow when we wuill not let go of a grudge against another or refuse to forgive anther?
After all, how can we profess the love of Christ when we can’t show that love through the forgiveness of another?
But if we can muster up the strength to forgive another in His name then we will notice something else about our faith. It grows because we are surrounded by people who are seeking to live their faith.
When we look at ourselves as isolated creatures, our faith is small, very small. But Jesus tells us is that when we feel the smallness of our faith, then it is time that we draw upon the faith of others. When we become discouraged about the world around us, it is time to look at the people in our life who we love and who can give us energy and hope. If we lose our job or our health, it is not time to go it alone. It is time to draw upon the strength of the people who respect and support us. When we doubt whether there really is a heaven, it is time that we turn to the people around us whose faith is stronger than ours and draw on their strength.
Our faith might be the size of a mustard seed but we are not an isolated plant. We are a Church, a part of a community of believers. As a community of believers, we need to draw upon one another for faith and hope. Alone, our faith is much too small. But it is still sufficient. It still has power, because we do not fly alone.
We fly on his love and our shadow of love creates a better place for each one of us.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, you give us victory over the destructive forces of sin and harmful desires that keep us from doing your will. Give me the strength to always choose what is good and to reject what is wrong. May your love and truth rule my heart that I may give good example to others and guide those who need your wise instruction and help.”
As we ask the Lord for an increase in faith, we are asking him for the light that comes from faith so that we may examine our consciences appropriately, see our spiritual blind spots and look at our behavior from God’s perspective, and come, even seven times a day, to say, “Lord, have mercy on me!”