Children are really very interesting in the way and manner they think and act. Any attentive mind can actually learn a lot from their rather innocent and gullible disposition.
I was once keenly following a dialogue between two little children. One had a toy; a water gun and would not share with the other. The “deprived” child was obviously not happy because of the attitude of his uncharitable friend. To establish his anger he made a statement that spoke volumes and from every indication gave him hope. I heard him say “my father will buy my own water gun for me and I will not share with you!” The interlocution did not end there. Instantly the first child who was having the water gun made his own reassuring statement as he said “my own father will buy bigger ones for me and I will not also share with you!”
From the above and similar instances, you discover that children are faith-enabled beings. They are for instance sure that they have absolute protection when their parents or caregivers are around irrespective of any impending danger. They see their parents or caregivers as all-knowing and all-powerful. They believe that whatever they need could be provided by their parents or caregivers; they don’t ask how but may be when!
Today we are reflecting on faith. If we must describe and define faith we must begin by establishing that it is a gift from God; in fact a supernatural gift (Eph. 2:8). Furthermore the letter to Hebrews (Heb. 11:1) sees it as: “the assurance of things hoped for and certainty of things not seen!”
The above definition is quite inclusive of faith generally not just faith in God. Hence it can be said that we all have faith within us. It is by faith that we go into a restaurant in a strange place and eat any kind of food without fear of being poisoned. It is by faith that we sit on a chair believing that we will be comfortable. In fact, faith characterizes our sleeping and rising; our going out and coming back. The Catechism of the Catholic Church goes further to admonish that:
Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by Him. “Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and ‘makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth (CCC.153).
From the admonition above we discover that there is a difference between Faith as a supernatural virtue (gift) and Faith as religious creed for instance Catholic Faith. It is thus not enough to belong to a Faith tradition there is need to activate or as the Catechism of the Catholic Church maintained, to exercise our faith.
In the gospel today the apostles asked our Lord Jesus Christ to increase their faith. This request was very direct and purposeful. You can sense the seriousness and passion that accompanied it. They could have discovered their short falls on the one hand and the intensity of faith in the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. We can recall that before this time our Lord had rebuked them for their little faith (Matt. 8:26; Matt. 16:8; Matt. 22:31).It is worth noting that in all these instances our Lord Jesus Christ did not say they lacked faith but that they have little faith. This confirms the fact above that we all have faith but often what we lack is its activation at God’s instance.
The answer our Lord gave to the apostles on their request is indeed very instructive. Typical of him he used a material that is common within their environment to demonstrate what faith is and how it can be activated. He told them that if they could have faith as little as a mustard seed they could give a command to a Sycamore tree to be uprooted and be planted in the sea and it will happen.
Looking at the response of our Lord Jesus Christ we are exposed to so many facts. He said that if their faith could be as little as a grain of mustard seed it could avail much. Mustard seed is known to be the smallest grain which eventually grows into a big tree. This means that faith is effective not on account of its size but on account of its activation. Hence our Lord was telling them that it is not all about increasing your faith but it is all about activating the one which has been put into you by God.
It may also be good for us to double check why our Lord used the allusion of uprooting a Sycamore tree and planting it in the sea. Sycamore trees (ficus sycomorus) are very important at the time. They are short trees of about five metres and are found along the streets and in Egypt by the Nile. Basically they grow on the ground (and not on water) and for it to be uprooted by mere words and planted in the sea is unimaginable; this is only possible by faith. Our Lord was confirming that faith in God brings about the occurrence of unimaginable things
The next instruction given by our Lord about a servant serving the master first before eating on a face value seem to deviate from the theme of faith. But on a closer look we discover that our Lord was still talking about faith showing itself in action; hence faith is activated by committed service. This in essence means that our faith which is potent in us can be activated when we put ourselves into divine service.
The Christian life is worthless without faith. In fact the letter to the Hebrews (11:6) instructs that it is impossible to please God without faith. This is proved by the fact that most people who had close contact and connection with God got his approval by their faith: Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, David Samuel and the prophets, (Heb. 11:4-32).
There many of us who have not being able to activate our faith on account sloth which is one of the seven deadly sins. The first reading tells us that the righteous lives by faith (not fear). Christian life itself is not a principle or a title it is a life as well as an attitude lived by activated faith. We need to activate the faith software in us like the woman with the issue of blood did and was instantly healed (Luke 8: 43-48). The blind man Bartimaeus in the gospel of Mark (10:46-52) was healed because he activated his faith in Jesus Christ Son of David. The Centurion’s servant was healed because the Centurion activated his faith in Jesus Christ who can heal just by his spoken words (Matt. 8:8). The Canaanite woman got answer for her child because of her amazing activation of faith through her persistence (Matt. 15: 21-28).
This reflection is indeed very timely as the Church concludes the celebration of the Year of Faith. In the Apostolic letter Porta Fidei of October 2011 the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called on all the faithful to open up the door of faith (Acts 14:27). This door which is first opened at our baptism should be constantly opened through conversion and renewed encounter with the word of God. By opening the door of faith the retired Pope was actually calling on us to continually activate the gift of faith which is already evident in our lives until we gain entrance into the kingdom of God. There is no time to activate the faith software in you than now in the face of your challenges and difficulties. Remember also that without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).
I wish you a faith-enabled week ahead.