Homily for the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Oct. 2, 2022. Luke 17:5-10. Theme: That Amazing Mustard-Seed-Size Faith!
Our first reading today comes from one of the most remarkable books in the Old Testament. It contains an extended dialogue between the prophet Habakkuk and God. The prophet is confused and upset about God’s apparent lack of intervention into the sufferings of this world. He wants to see God do something about it! God responds to Habakkuk by reminding him that, while he may seem silent and uninvolved in our world, He is very aware of what is going on and carries out his plans for good through others.
Jesus’ words in today’s gospel about a mustard-seed size faith are a key as to how God does this. Some people think that Jesus is putting the disciples down for not having enough faith, but I think what he is really saying is that even just a little faith, small as a mustard seed, contains within it the power to do the impossible. This small mustard-seed-size faith, planted in the hearts of those who trust in God and who are willing to take a step out of their comfort zone, can bring about incredible responses to Habakkuk’s concern about divine intervention against the evil and injustice in the world.
In 1948, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was just an ordinary nun teaching high school to wealthy girls in India. But every day she came face-to-face with the destitute poverty and hunger of the poor outcasts in the streets. Her mustard-seed sized faith that God could somehow use her to do something about it moved her to leave her comfortable convent and live among the poor. Many years later, after she was world famous, she was asked how it all started. She replied, “I never thought of doing anything big. I just saw one poor abandoned dying man lying in the street and so I picked him up and brought him home.” Today, there are over 4,000 Missionaries of Charity relieving the suffering of hundreds of thousands across the globe. All because of God acting through one person’s mustard-seed-size faith.
In 1964, Rosa Parks, a devout Christian black woman in Montgomery, AL, was on a segregated bus-ride home after a long hard day at work. When 4 black passengers were told to give up their seats for white passengers, 3 of them got up but Rosa stayed put. Her mustard-seed size faith was enough to inform her that she had dignity as a child of God just like anyone else. So, she just stayed seated. Rosa was arrested on the spot and lost her job. Once word of what she did spread, the very large black population of Montgomery boycotted the bus system for 381 days. They brought it to a stop-still, causing it to fall right down to its financial knees. This eventually resulted in a Supreme Court decision opening the doors to racial equality and jump-started the civil rights movement. All because of God acting through one person’s mustard-seed-size faith.
Such true stories should make us stop and think: What small act of mustard-seed size faith might God be asking me to do regarding the struggles or sufferings around me? Is there something that I know I should be doing but don’t have the courage to step out of my comfort zone to do? Or perhaps do I think that what I have in mind is too little or too insignificant to make any real and lasting difference?
We need to toss those kinds of thoughts aside. Recall that Mother Teresa never had the slightest clue that picking up one dying man off the street would result in an international movement of service to the poorest of the poor. Rosa Parks had absolutely no idea that her refusal to give up her seat on that segregated bus would become the catalyst for a worldwide racial equality movement. They were, each one of them, simply acting upon their mustard-seed size faith and doing what little thing they thought they could do at that time and in that place.
How does Jesus want me to respond to the injustice and suffering I see around me? Ask him this question often in your daily prayer and especially after you receive Him in Holy Communion. Then be sure to listen for his voice for he will truly respond. Trust him, be willing to step out of your comfort zone and do what he asks of you because… it’s absolutely amazing what God can do through one person’s mustard-seed-size faith!