Quality or Quantity?
I think I like quality. For example, if I wanted to buy a rug, I would like to buy a hand-made oriental or Guatemalan rug than buy a factory-made rug from Walmart. Of course, some might say that if you have to cover a cold floor to keep your feet warm, and you don’t have much money, buy the Walmart rug.
Many folks like quantity. They like to have plenty of something, like money, extra things, lots of stuff. If have one or two of something is good, three or four or more of the same thing is better! This is probably the ordinary human experience.
How do these reflections apply to faith? In the Gospel today, Jesus’ disciples ask him increase our faith! They want more faith. They are quantifying faith. The most common statement I’ve heard people say is I wish I had more faith. This is what the disciples are really saying.
Jesus surprises them by saying it’s not that they need more faith, but to use the faith they have even it is as small as a mustard seed. Using just the faith they have they could command a mulberry tree, with its vast root system, to be uprooted and be planted in the sea. Even a small amount of faith can do this! Jesus definitely puts his emphasis on the quality of faith over the quantity of faith. But what does that mean for us who usually talk in terms of needing more of something? What is Jesus getting at?
When we have even a mustard seed of faith we can live in a way that defies ordinary human experience. For example:
-Violence strikes us, and instead of responding with righteous violence in holy revenge, we try to uncover the complaint against us and repent;
-Our resources are limited and we feel we have a right to keep what is ours, but we share generously any way;
-God seems to be absent in all the violence, and we can’t see the Kingdom taking root in the world, but we trust and live a life of thankfulness.
In other words, we are fools for Christ’s sake and live a life that defies ordinary human experience: When most people value the strong, powerful, and wealthy, we refuse to sacrifice the weak, the powerless, and poor. That’s just what we do with our faith, even if it’s only like a mustard seed!
Faith allows us to live in the Truth that sets us free. This is the vision that Habakkuk is talking about:
Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise . . . The wicked surround the righteous—therefore judgment comes forth perverted . . . Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.
Daily life moves fast, we’re running here and there, we have faith, the Truth is there, in big letters, but we can miss it as we run by, mimicking the ordinary human response of the world around us to life’s challenges and tragedies and never truly experiencing freedom.
When Timothy, a person of faith who had shed many tears in his following of Christ, was tempted to give up, Paul exhorted him
For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and love and of self-discipline.
You have faith. I have faith. No one has perfect faith. What the Church has always believed is that when we are gathered together, especially at the Holy Eucharist, the community gathered has a fullness of faith. This is a school of faith where we learn a way of living in the Spirit which defies ordinary human experience. We learn to repent, forgive, show mercy, to give to others, and love everyone as a sister or brother of the one Father, Source of life and Truth.
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.
|The Reverend John Smith, Vicar|
5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE