Lectio Divina: 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

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Faith Is Light
Paris, October 04, 2013 (Zenit.org) Monsignor Francesco Follo

1) A question of quality not quantity

This Sunday’s Word of God reveals that what the missionaries announce has two basic features: perseverance and humility. Jesus clearly points out to his disciples that the way to follow to be missionaries with him and like him must be taken with a perseverant faith, and a humility that freely put itself to the service of the announcement of the joyful and loving evangelic truth: the Kingdom of God is the Mercy of the Father.

In front of the request to put their lives in the Redeemer’s hands to serve his love, the disciples feel inadequate and consequently they ask Jesus ”Increase our faith” (Lk 17, 5).

Using the comparison of the mustard seed and the mulberry tree that cannot be uprooted by the storm because it is solid in the ground, Jesus teaches us that we don’t need so much faith as we often think. A little one is enough if it is a true one. In fact a grain of true faith can uproot the tree, because it is stronger than many roots.

Expanding the comparison we can say that faith is to settle permanently in God. This settlement is a matter of quality not quantity, of authenticity not of effort. This authentic entrustment to Him is then joined with the acceptance of a project calculated on God’s possibilities and not on ours.

After the teaching not on the quantity but on the strength of faith (one grain is enough to uproot the tree), comes a parable that, at first sight, is not lacking in implications that are humanly annoying. Does God behave like some hard to please masters that unrelentingly ask and demand and don’t give rest to their servants who must always be at their disposal?

Not at all. With a way of speech a bit paradoxical but clear, Jesus teaches that the strength of the Gospel is in the loyal service of the ones who have accepted God’s love, who have their roots in the Son and share the Word made flesh in the tame power of the Spirit. Faith allows an authentic knowledge of God that involves the entire human being: it is a “knowledge” that gives flavor to life, a new taste of being, and a joyful way to live. Faith expresses itself donating oneself to the others in a fraternity that makes supportive, able to love without calculations or demands and with humility. In today’s Gospel Jesus says: “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[ii] servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'”(Lk 17:7-10). As we can see, Christ is clear with his disciples (and today with us too). He specifies who the master is and who the servant is, what are the guidelines to follow to execute an order and what reward is due to the one who does his duty. However, let’s not forget that in the last supper Jesus did exactly the opposite of the masters of the world. He, the Master of Heaven, invited and invites to the table the servants that have become his friends, and that astonished let Him wash their feet. This is the amazing love of God for us.

2) The faith is missionary

And this is why:

“Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives”. (Pope Francis Encyclical Letter LUMEN FIDEI, nr.4). It is a Love that even washes our feet and asks us to carry it in the world as missionaries of Charity.

Faith is to trust in God, in his word, in his guidance on the obscure and impervious roads of life. As missionaries of the Truth we must take it to all men and women so that they know in whom to trust and who gives meaning to life.

Faith is to know that at the beginning of everything there is a Father who for love has got us out from nothing. We are not born by mistake without anybody expecting or desiring us. We are not at the mercy of a blind fate: we are in the hands of One who loves us and never abandons us, “who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). The purpose for which He came has been defined by Christ himself: “Give glory to your son, so that he may give eternal life to all you gave him. Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ” (Jh 17:2-3).

Faith is the light that allows us to see things with Christ’s eyes, to judge ideas and frenzies in the light of his teaching, to become able to love the others in a new way that is the same clear and unbiased way with which He loves them. The strength of the announcement of the Gospel is not in founding new strategies of media effects in the northern part of the world or in planning humanitarian intervention in the southern part. The strength of the evangelization is in our being missionaries that operate with humility and the knowledge to be “unprofitable servants”. I think that I should translate: servants who work freely but know to be like the yeast hidden in the dough, or the mustard seed that is not different from a grain of sand, but has such a vital energy that it can generate a tree whose leaves become a refuge for the birds on the run from the storm of life.

Faith is to understand that the Holy Spirit sent by the Risen Lord, works in our hearts, helps us to discern good from bad, urges us to walk on the right path, convinces us to behave like merciful men and women in a pugnacious and hard world. The aim of the faith we received is the mission. The mission is not for the Afterworld but for This World.

Faith is the conviction that we have been given the joy to belong to the Church, Bride and Body of Christ, Family of the Sons and Daughters of God and secure, certain and safe Place, where we meet the Father.

For us there is nothing more crucial, more satisfying and more rational than the theological virtue of faith; of it there is nothing more precious to be made subject of our prayer and of our mission as evangelizer men and women.

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7 Responses to Lectio Divina: 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

  1. johnhenrycn says:

    …there is nothing more crucial, more satisfying and more rational than the theological virtue of faith…

    We are taught, and I believe, that Love is the greatest theological virtue, but Faith is certainly in the top three 😉

    Just musing, but is Faith really a virtue at all in the sense we currently understand the word – upright behaviour or scrupulous morality? I wonder if it is not more accurate to think of Faith as a gift, a state of mind, a ‘talent’ for sublimation of doubt despite overwhelming (seemingly) evidence to the contrary. Is it a virtue to do so, to be able to do so? In his homily today, Father mentioned a young Jewish girl who escaped the Warsaw Ghetto by hiding in a cave outside the city where she starved to death, and when later discovered, it was found that she’d used a sharp stone to write some words on the cave wall:

    I believe in God even when He is silent.

    Again, just musing, but I think being able to so write and believe under her circumstances was gift of grace, not a virtue. And might not the same might be said of the two other theological virtues, Hope and Love?

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  2. kathleen says:

    JH, you raise some interesting questions.

    I would say that Faith is a virtue and a gift.
    The ‘gift’ of the ‘virtue’ of Faith is given to those who seek the Lord, to those who are humble (at least, in part), recognising their smallness and the unfathomable Love and Generosity of God in creating them out of nothing. All men who believe may be sinners, even great sinners, but they would necessarily need to be repentant sinners, or working to overcome seriously sinful habits, as I do not see how one could revel in a grievously sinful life and still believe in God. In fact it is falling into continuous mortal sin that makes many people lose their Faith and lapse from practicing it.

    Hope follows on from Faith, so it too must be a virtue. We ‘hope’ and yearn for that promised fulfilment that our ‘faith’ in the Word of God reveals to us as True. (“Our hearts are restless Lord, until they rest in Thee”, as St. Augustine says.)

    Love (of God first, and then also of our neighbour) is the obvious result of real Faith and Hope in God. He Who is Love itself, and Who loved us first, pours His love into our hearts. Our Love is a reflection of God’s own Love. Like all the virtues it just grows and increases the more we practice it, and this is the virtue that spreads the greatest good to others.

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  3. Toadspitttle says:

    “…a young Jewish girl who escaped the Warsaw Ghetto by hiding in a cave outside the city where she starved to death, and when later discovered, it was found that she’d used a sharp stone to write some words on the cave wall: “I believe in God even when He is silent.”

    Yet there are people who would suggest that the girl starved in a cave because she believed in the wrong god.

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  4. Adrian Meades says:

    Yes Toad. People in all religions have faith, so how can this all be the same virtuous “gift”?

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  5. golden chersonnese says:

    johnhenry, I would say a virtue (and I’m not, of course, original in this) is always a habit. In this way it is not unlike sin, which all of us know to be habitual more often than not (even Toad, I suspect, would agree). Virtue as a habit brings about its own increase and deepening in us.

    Aquinas dealt with intellectual, moral and theological virtues, but he said all of them are habitual in nature.

    Of the virtue of faith he says it is “a habit of mind, whereby eternal life is begun in us, making the intellect assent to what is non-apparent.” He also says that these theological virtues are first “infused” in us by God, and in that sense are gifts too in their origin. They also grow and increase in us once given. Well, that’s the general hope anyway, but you don’t see all that much of them around these days, do you. Toad will know.

    http://www.uwplatt.edu/~drefcins/233AquinasVirtues.html

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  6. Toadspitttle says:

    Toad knows nothing, Golden.

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  7. golden chersonnese says:

    Toad, you know it’s rude to recommend yourself.

    Meanwhile, johnhenry, I need to attend to the natives, who, as it happens, appear to be somewhat restless this day.

    Oh well, what’s new?

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