“Increase our faith, Lord (Luke 17:5-10).” At first glance, it seems like a reasonable request. Until we understand that faith is a gift. To ask for more is like asking someone who gives us a box of candy to give us more candy, or asking the person who gives us a bouquet of flowers to give us more flowers. Jesus’ invitation for us to be in relationship with him is a freely given gift. The Christian life is not about asking for more faith. It is about using the faith we have. As Jesus says, if our faith was only the size of a tiny mustard seed, it would be enough to uproot a huge sycamore tree and plant it in the sea. Faith is not about quantity. It is about the infinite grace that has been given to us to transform the world with the love of Jesus.
Sometimes we might say to ourselves things like, I have prayed, I have kept out of trouble, I have been a kind and compassionate person, now, Lord, it is time for you to do your part. Before we get too self-congratulatory about all our good efforts, the fact is, we still live in a world where there is prejudice, hate, war, poverty and greed. As disciples of Jesus, our work is never complete. We do not want to end up like the servant in the Gospel story that Jesus calls useless because he has only done what was asked.
The response of faith is to love God and each other. The work of love is never finished. Jesus’ eye is on the true lover. This is the person who completes a difficult task, risks being misunderstood to stand up for justice or makes it through a time of suffering with courage and perseverance and then asks, “Okay, Lord, what is next?” At challenging times such as these we might be tempted to ask for more faith because it seems like we do not have much left. Jesus wants us to always take heart and to continue on with the business of living and loving, relying on the gift of faith which will never be taken away.
Life is difficult. It is even more difficult when we think the faith we have is not enough. Perhaps it is time to turn the request for more faith into a thank you for the faith we have.
Together in faith,
The Very Rev. Christopher Smith, rector