Increase

For Sunday, October 2nd, 2022

Reading

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied, “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. “Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’” Luke 17:5-10

Reflection

Today’s Gospel, is the apostles’ response to our Lord’s teaching on forgiveness. Right before today’s reading, Jesus had said, “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” (Luke 17:3-4). The number seven is one of the perfect numbers in scripture (see Genesis 2:3), so this sevenfold forgiveness means that we ought to forgive perfectly. It is in this Scriptural context that the apostles say to Jesus, “Increase our faith.” 

On a human level, forgiving those who have deeply offended you is very hard, but all things are possible with the smallest bit of faith. Our Lord wants to put things in perspective with his metaphor, so he says that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can do miraculous things. To understand his metaphor, two things are helpful.

First, it is important to know the size of a mustard seed in comparison to other seeds. Mustard seeds probably do not come to mind when you think of large-seeded plants. You might think of coconuts or avocados instead. Our Lord is referring to a small-seeded plant. This means that even a small amount of faith is powerful.

Second, it is vital to know something about mulberry trees. The mulberry tree is known for having a lot of roots such that it would be quite difficult to uproot and plant somewhere else. And according to experts, “Mulberry trees require at least one inch of water each week for optimal growth and fruit production.” [1] Let’s just say that it will get more than enough water planted in the sea—indeed, far too much. 

With these things in mind, Jesus’ metaphor tells us that we can do the impossible even with a little faith. According to the other Gospel accounts, our Lord even tells us that we can move mountains (Matthew 17:20; 21:21; Mark 11:22-24). After all, for God, all things are possible. The image of moving a mountain is understood in two ways. It means that with a small faith, you can instantly move a mountain, and it also means with a small faith, you can endure long enough to move a mountain one stone at a time. Both of these are possible with a faith the size of a mustard seed.

Even though we have this incredible power through faith and prayer, we must never forget who we are. We are not the master; we are merely God’s servants. This means that we need to keep God’s commandments at all times and that we must humbly serve Christ’s one, holy, universal, and apostolic Church. This is not what we have to do—this is what we get to do. We are Christ’s unworthy servants. 

God’s graciousness to us is a sheer gift. We have done nothing to deserve his goodness. Every good thing comes from God: faith, work, food, and health. No matter what we do for God, we could never, ever repay him for his goodness to us. That is why our faith in God needs to increase daily. Ask the Lord to increase your faith in your silent prayer time today. 

“Increase our faith, Lord.” Amen. 


 [1]  Watering mulberry trees – stark bro’s. Stark Bro’s Nurseries & Orchards Co. Retrieved September 5, 2022, from https://www.starkbros.com/growing-guide/how-to-grow/fruit-trees/mulberry-trees/watering 


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