This article appeared in the Scottish Catholic Observer on Friday 25th October 2013.
So far in this series I have looked at Faith in various ways – how I learned my Faith, how I grew in Faith and how my Faith might put me at odds with the world. I have looked at life as a journey of Faith, taking me from childhood into a more mature understanding of my relationship with God.
In this month’s article I want to take a look at Faith from a slightly different perspective. I have looked at the strength of faith and strengthening my faith. The other day I found that Jesus used a different idea. He spoke of the size of our Faith.
In the parable of the mustard seed He says that if your faith was the size of a mustard seed you could command a tree to uproot itself and walk. Now we can take that statement on many levels. Obviously I am not able to command a tree to do that so my faith must be really small. It can be taken as a simple comparison.
On the other hand it is saying something about Faith. Jesus is saying that Faith gives us power. In another place he tells us that faith can move mountains. He is telling us that we have the power to do things that we think are beyond our capabilities.
Now I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the Gospel, just to check. In Luke 8; 43 – 48 we hear of a woman who is suffering from a condition that has been dragging her down for twelve years. She believes that Jesus has the power to heal her. One day she pushes through the crowd and touches the hem of his garment, She feels the power that cures her that instant. Jesus feels it too. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
Everyone denied it but Jesus said,
“Somebody touched me. I felt that power had gone out from me.”
The woman came forward and confessed to touching Him and said she had been cured. Jesus said,
“My daughter, your faith has restored you to health; go in peace.”
He didn’t say that He had cured her because of her faith. In fact the woman felt the miracle happen before Jesus was aware of her.
Jesus frequently refers to the power of Faith. On visiting Nazareth, his home town, the people would not accept Him. He was still the carpenter’s son. In Mark 6; 4-6 we learn,
“And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’; and He could work no miracles there, though He cured a few sick people by laying hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of Faith.”
The gospels make it clear that when we have Faith we have power to do good. We have power beyond our imagining. We have power to carry out the work that Jesus has set us to do. We know that, but do we really believe it?
My faith is certainly much smaller than that mustard seed and I’m sure many of us don’t feel we have the power to do marvellous things. However if we all have a small faith we can join together and in coming together our Faith can become much bigger. It is as though all our little mustard seeds come together to make something much bigger. I believe that is why it is important that we come together in prayer. We worship together because the Faith is stronger then.
Who has been to a procession in Lourdes, with thousands of believers singing and praying together and has not felt the effects. For that time our faith is magnified and we can feel it. I belong to a small choir and we work hard at our hymns. Recently we attended a couple of workshops in Motherwell Diocese. There were participants from across the area. When we all sang together we were lifted by the other voices. The sound was wonderful and it was not just more noise, we all felt inspired and sang better than our usual attempts.
As a community of Faith we are a power for good. There are, however, things we can’t do. In Mark’s gospel we hear of Jesus casting out a demon from a boy. The boy’s father asks Jesus to help him. Jesus casts out the spirit and the boy is cured. His disciples asked why they had been unable to cure the boy. Jesus answered,
“This is the kind that can only be driven out by prayer.”
Mark 9; 29
There we have our answer. It is through prayer that great things are done. When we are united in prayer we are most effective. Sometimes people tell us that they don’t need to go to Mass because they can pray at home or on the bus. While it is certainly true that we can pray anywhere and at any time, it is when we come together as a community of prayer that we are truly united. When we are united in the Eucharist then our prayers are truly powerful.
I recall being at a meeting of priests on a mission in Liberia. This was after the troubles there. Someone asked the priest who had run the Catholic radio station, Radio Veritas, to explain his escape from a fire there. The station had been broadcasting news of the atrocities Charles Taylor’s army had been carrying out. One night he was seized and locked in the inner studio of the station and the building set on fire. He was soon overcome by fumes, flames surrounding his studio.
He woke up on someone’s kitchen floor. Nobody knew how he had arrived there. His explanation was simple – he didn’t know how he got out, only that he had been saved by people’s prayers.
It is evident, then that Faith is not an individual thing. It works best in community, the bigger the community the better. Faith demands to be shared. There is a temptation for us to be smug in our religion. We could easily feel that we are chosen by God and other people may not get to Heaven but we will be ok. I don’t think it really works like that. Jesus calls all men (and women – I’m not looking to start a fight). As Christians we are called to help others to come to Christ. If we sit back thinking “I’m all right Jack.” Then we might be in for a rude awakening when the time comes.
I believe that it is vital that all Christians come together and show, by example, how Christ’s message of love can transform us. Only by being united in Christ can we persuade non – Christians to turn to the gospel. In sharing our Faith we will make it bigger and more effective in dealing with the problems of our world.
This Year of Faith has given me a timely reminder that the Faith I have taken for granted is not something to leave in the drawer and bring out on a Sunday. It has to be the guiding force in my life. I wonder where it will lead me?