The WORD in Other Words by Fr Narciso Cellan SVD (Philippines) 26th Sunday Ordinary Time, Hab 1:2-3; 2:2-4, 2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14, Lk 17:5-10
“That I have given you ice cream is a fact,” a young man said to a young woman. “That I finished it all is also a fact,” the young woman replied. “That you love me, however, is faith,” the young man retorted.
We often contrast faith with fact, if not with reason, just as we contrast religion with science. Each time a scientific research is conducted, its primary purpose is to collect empirical evidence in order to develop or support a theory and build knowledge. The conventional notion is that observable fact is the foundation of reason and the backbone of science.
While this is universally adhered to, many people are led to the assumption that where facts are lacking, faith must be summoned. Faith therefore is often perceived as ill—disposed to empirical evidence. Worse, believers are sometimes considered as unscientific
In today‘s gospel, the disciples asked the Lord to increase their faith. Jesus replied by saying that if a person‘s faith were the size of a mustard seed, he/she could already do many great things. The analogy of a mustard seed underlines a faith that is alive, dynamic and operative, so that although starting small, it shall eventually grow big.
To a person who professes to have faith, the assurance of Jesus is this: “You could say to a mulberry tree ‘be uprooted and planted in the sea‘, and it would obey you.” This is not just a metaphor. The Lord is basically telling us that our faith must produce observable results and compel us to produce something tangible.
In the second part of today‘s gospel, the Lord speaks about service, and explains what a servant is expected to do. There is a critical point to be made here: faith must lead to service. “Faith without action is dead” (James 2:17).
A farmer exhibited at a fair a pumpkin grown in the exact shape and size of a large jar. Explaining how he did it, he said: “When the pumpkin was still as small as my thumb, I placed it in the jar and just allowed it to grow. When it filled the far, it stopped growing.”
Service operates in the same way. It can only be as big as the “jar” of our faith. Put another way, the quality and extent of our service to God is proportional to the depth of our faith Him. We need faith to move the trees of despair, topple down mountains of worries, and bring peace into our hearts. Hence, we need our faith to grow big and strong so that we can accomplish more for the Lord.
It is not accurate to say that faith does not demand empirical evidence. On the contrary, the size and authenticity of our faith can only be measured by the magnitude of the proof we produce. A life of service substantiates our faith in the Lord. A heart of compassion validates the depth of what we truly believe in.