Jesus has redeemed us by his blood. We do not pay, nor can we pay, for our redemption; we receive it freely.
Faith is a divine gift (Rom 12, 3; Phil 1, 29; 2 Pt 1, 1). Those who believe only have it by God’s grace; they receive it freely. And it is safe to say that it is only the one that grants it who can make it increase.
So, the disciples do the right thing going to Jesus to ask him to increase their faith. After all, it is he who has called them to follow and believe in him. And he cheers them up and corrects them as he answers.
The Teacher’s words lift up the lowly who own up to their being of little faith. Does he notice in them shame and dismay that their faith stays weak? But all the same, he does not say to them what he already said before, namely, “You of little faith!” Rather, he lifts up their spirits and tells them that a faith as tiny as a mustard seed can do wonders. And he thus corrects them. For he lets them know that what matters is not the size but the kind of faith. More crucial than the size of faith is its being alive, strong and active.
Such an answer is as puzzling as the beatitudes and the other paradoxical teachings. They, too, make for this world being turned upside down. What is small and what is big get to be side by side for contrast; against all expectations, the former stands out. And that is how it is, so that no one may boast before God. That is to say, grace, faith, revelation, salvation, all these we receive freely.
All that is good and perfect comes from God; he gives it to us freely.
The disciples’ request and Jesus’ reply raise questions for us. Do we humbly own up to our being of little faith? Do we truly admit by word and by deed that we receive freely and, hence, should give freely?
Of course, for us to own up to our being of little faith and to admit that we owe it all to God entails lowliness. God, besides, resists the proud and gives grace to the lowly.
And he reveals to the lowly what he hides from the wise. No wonder, then, that they keep the true religion and have living faith (SV.EN XI:190). They do not dissect things; they just take for granted that they have received what they have. And that is why they show that they are lowly and live by faith in the way they give thanks and share what they have (TWVDP 59-60). They are wholly at the beck and call, at the service, of God and of the neighbor. Thus, they bear their share of hardship for the Gospel.
Yes, the poor, too, receive the grace to share in Jesus’ cross, though not in the same way as St. Pio. But just the same, they are images of the one who gives up his body and sheds his blood. Images of the one who saves us and gives us eternal life. Do we belong to the poor?
Lord Jesus, make us recognize that all is gift that we receive freely. As did your servant, St. Ignatius Loyola, we ask that you teach us to be generous. To give and not count the cost. To labor and not to look for reward at all, save that of knowing that we do your will.
2 October 2022
27th Sunday in O.T. (C)
Hab 1, 2-3; 2, 2-4; 2 Tim 1, 6-8. 13-14; Lk 17, 5-10