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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories ~ Faith: Small is Great

Not long ago I had the honour of being part of a wedding. The couple were called upon to express their commitment, their faith in each other. That faith which expressed their relationship was remarkable. It was expressed in the words that every couple declares to each other at their wedding: “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honour you all the days of my life.” What a declaration of the faith, the trust they have in each other. What a declaration of love!

Faith or trust is relational. It serves as a bond between persons. It is also dynamic. Its beginning is normally limited and tentative. But it has great potential for growth. Experience together, openness to one another, generosity and readiness to change and adjust for one another, these all allow what begins small to grow, becoming the stuff of dreams. Such faith can become what we refer to as the bond of love.

Faith the size of a mustard seed – what an image Jesus uses as he responds to his disciples! (Luke 17:5-10) They ask him to increase their faith. Faced with what they hear are the demands of discipleship, they feel inadequate, too limited in their ability to respond to his call. His response is to tell them that they do not need more faith. What they need is to recognize the power of small faith and its capacity to grow and become the kingdom. What they are called to is the universal and open reflection of God’s unconditional love. What a declaration of love!

Faith is not about power and the capacity to accomplish great or marvelous deeds. It does not take away our human weaknesses or increase our human strengths. Faith results in the energy and power of God working with our humanness. It is a gift that is unearned, unmerited and freely given to all. When accepted it can lead to great things as we cooperate with God’s presence. It can lead to discipleship lived.

So often, great faith can be an impediment to discipleship. It can be rigid and domineering. It can blind us to the reality that we live in a messy world, full of paradoxes and unresolved questions, marked by questions and doubts. Life is complex. It is in the midst of this messy world, that faith is expressed in discipleship, with simple care, open concern for the small and the weak. It is in this messy world that we recognize that we fail and fall. It is in this world of contradictions and paradoxes that we so often need to be reconciled and forgiven. As disciples of Jesus, this is what we can offer to others.

The gift of faith with the divine presence that results, allows our weakness to become strength. It allows us to listen, to respond, to reach out in love in the midst of a messy, wounded world. This brings reconciliation and healing to our brokenness. Faith the size of a mustard seed – what a difference it can make! Small is, indeed great.

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