Chapter Talk – 27th Sunday of the Year – October 2, 2022, cycle-C
Right now, let us ask Jesus, like the apostles: “Increase our faith”. To ask something, to desire something beyond our ego demands, what would this be like? To desire and thus to ask from the depths, ‘Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord’…I cry, I desire for my faith to grow. What if we were to ask this on our knees with such true supplication? We know what the reply of Jesus is: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Lk 17:5-6). Only the size of a ‘mustard seed’…a very tiny seed, not unlike a very small redwood seed.
For faith to grow perhaps the key is for us to desire it. Doubts circle all the time for we cannot see the future beyond this present moment. And the paradox is that to see, truly see in the ‘today’ of our lives is not easy. So how do I have faith right now in this present moment? Just this tiny mustard seed of faith? And if not, what shall I do? Stay in hopelessness? Complain and murmur about this and that, or complain about this person and this situation? If we are true to our monastic, contemplative vocation, we will recognize this inner state and then do something about it…no matter how small the step. And it is as simple as crying out to God from the depths of our despair, or from the depths of our doubts, not giving in to those things that make us feel it is not worth it, then we do nothing but seep deeper into it all. However, prayer is as simple as crying out from the depths, ‘Lord, increase my faith’.
Pope Francis, in his ‘Angelus’ reflection said this: “The faith comparable to the grain of mustard is a faith that is not proud and self-assured: it does not pretend to be that of a great believer…It is a faith that, in humility, feels a great need of God and in smallness surrenders itself, trusting fully in Him. It is a faith that gives us the ability to look with hope at the alternate events of life, which helps us to accept even defeat, suffering, with the awareness that evil never has, never will have, the last word” (October 6, 2019). What struck me in these words of Pope Francis is that faith, even the size of a mustard seed, gives us hope through ‘the alternate events of life’: that is, through the good and the difficult, through the blessings and the sufferings, through the gifts and the struggles. Faith roots us in God, in the Divine life no matter what comes our way, individually or as a community. Faith helps us apprehend the Divine life and stay rooted in Christ, no matter what we are having to face and meet. We are not only called as contemplatives to ‘live our love to the end’ but concomitantly, we are to live our faith to the end. We have only to look at our brothers of Atlas, of how they lived their faith to the end. This was not a despairing community as they faced atrocities in the civil war of Algeria. Imagine the fears and anxieties that they daily faced about their own safety and that of their community. Still, they walked in faith, presumably dealing with their doubts daily. Blessings and struggles are always side by side. This is why the symbol of the ‘cross’ is so important to our faith. Jesus’ whole life teaches us that resurrection emerges out of death. The ‘seed’ needs to fall to the ground and die to generate more life.
Perhaps the key in all of this is to bring everything back to Christ. Discovering Christ in everything is what a living faith does. It changes the landscape of our lives within and without, of how we see and apprehend life’s happenings. Faith opens up the reality that God is ‘all in all’, that the Divine hand is in everything. And so, the utter importance of asking daily in prayer, ‘Lord, increase my faith’.
Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess