This is a syndicated post from Catholic Journal. [Read the original article...]
On October 24, 1993, one of the most influential advertising campaigns of all time was launched by a large advertising agency whose client was the California Milk Processor Board. With the use of just two words (Got Milk?) and images of numerous celebrities wearing a white residue around their lips, the ad campaign accomplished exactly what it set out to do: to increase our willingness to consume milk.
But on this 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, it is clear from the Readings (Book of Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4 and Second Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy 1:6-8; 13-14) and Gospel (Luke 17:5-10) that the subject is not about milk. Rather, it is clearly focused upon faith. Similar to a good advertiser attempting to get under our proverbial hood, I believe that a case may be made that the Sacred Scriptures prompt us to reflect and consider two important realities. First, do we have faith? And second, do we seek to increase it?
The Prophet Habakkuk is clearly appealing to the first case. That is, do we have faith? Writing around 600 B.C., he is said to be unique among the prophets in questioning the wisdom of God. “I cry for help, but you do not listen? I cry out to you, Violence, but you do not intervene.” After a while, the Lord answers him: “For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.” As Habakkuk’s world is crashing in around him, it is though the Lord is stretching his faith and urging him to faithfulness and trust. To borrow words from St. Teresa of Avila: “Let nothing disturb thee; Let nothing dismay thee; All things pass; God never changes.” (Poem IX)
Do we have faith? In our own lives, it really does come down to this very question. Do I trust God and acknowledge His kingship in my life? Do I believe that He has made me for a purpose? Do I believe that He loved me into existence before time began? Do I believe that God has set me into a family and within a circle of friends to guide them and love them and to be a faithful presence in their lives? Do I believe that He watches over me and has sent to me not only a Guardian Angel to do the same but also the Saints to pray me into eternity?
Do we have faith when our world comes crashing down around us? Or do we have faith only when times are rosy? Years ago, I remember watching a movie, Agnes of God, where a hardened female prosecuting attorney who was a lapsed Catholic sat beneath a gazebo with an old nun and began to speak about her faith. Or rather, her lack thereof. She noted that when she was young, she believed in miracles and that God was present in her life. As she grew older, however, life seemed to crash around her and she became hardened by the events of her life. After a moment of silence, she turned to the nun and asked: “As a child, I remember hearing the stories of the prophets and the saints. But, given our world, do you really believe that God continues to make them today?” The nun’s response was this: “As difficulty as it may seem, I do, I really do.”
As some of you know, eight years ago my wife and I experienced a full-term miscarriage of our son Luke. Before his funeral Mass and just prior to my carrying his casket to the altar, a friend of mine from the seminary approached me and prayed over me. Over and over, she prayed that God would use my faith to strengthen me so that I might trust more deeply in Him. In reality, my dear friend, although she is not likely to be canonized a saint, was appealing to my existing faith and asking God to increase it so that I might bear that present hardship and further deepen my trust in Him. In our daily lives, it is right to ask how we live out this ministry of assisting others in recognizing the faith God has already given them and then praying with and for them that He might bountifully increase it?
Which brings us to the second point and directly into today’s Gospel. After first acknowledging our faith, just how might we increase it? But rather than proposing this as a question to Jesus, the Apostles boldly state three simple words: “Increase our faith.” Quite a command, don’t you think? How many of us would look at Jesus and say the same thing? Again, listen to Our Lord’s response:
If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
Think about it. Would we fear having such power? Would we fear the implications that might come from an increased faith? Can we imagine how different our world would be if each of us asked Jesus to increase our faith and to become king of our lives? What miracles would we bring to those whose lives we touch? It has been said that when we look to the lives of the saints, we remark: “That’s them, not me.”
In today’s Gospel, the Apostles are front and center, asking Jesus to increase their faith, presumably for what lay ahead. In looking at their lives, it is true that each of them stumbled on their journey of coming to know Him. But at some point, each of them also laid down their lives for Him and gave Him their very selves. They said to Jesus: “Increase my faith.” And you and me? Two-thousand years later, perhaps these words would do. “Lord, increase our faith that we might become the fullest expression of the miracle you intended us to be.”
On this October Sunday, the question at hand is very simple. Got Faith?