(Photo illustration by Phil Younk)

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Based on the Gospel of Luke 17:5-10
All big things begin small. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus talks about the power of faith.

On his long journey to Jerusalem, Jesus has been teaching the apostles about God’s kingdom, about himself and what it means to be his disciples. In the verses just before this Sunday’s Gospel, he teaches about temptation and forgiveness. Perhaps hearing that teaching, as well as Jesus’ other teachings, the apostles recognize their need for stronger faith than when they first began to follow him. They say to Jesus, “Increase our faith.”

In answer, Jesus explains how powerful faith – “faith no bigger than a tiny mustard seed” – can be. A mustard seed is only 1 millimeter in size; that’s the size of the period at the end of this sentence. If we believe, we will see miracles.

Actually, we do see miracles happen every day – babies are born, the sun rises and sets, night turns into day, tadpoles become frogs, caterpillars become butterflies, rain helps crops to grow and trees shedding their colorful leaves now in readiness for winter sleep will sprout new green leaves in spring.

Then, Jesus talks about duty. God’s special gift of faith to us and our acceptance of that gift lead us to love God and to share his love with others. It’s not a matter of how much faith we have or if we have enough. It’s not a matter of being good enough or doing enough. With faith and through faith in Jesus, we are to live each day loving and serving God and others as Jesus’ disciples.

This Sunday’s Gospel doesn’t say we shouldn’t pay attention to God’s rules (the Commandments). What it does say is that once we have kept all the rules and done everything we are supposed to do – our duty – we are only on the brink of what it means to be disciples of Jesus.

For example: a person goes to Mass on Sunday because it is one of our “duties” as a Catholic. The person is there but is not really participating in the Mass with the rest of the community and in union with Jesus on the altar.

If we are to be witnesses of our faith to others, we must go beyond what is our duty. Faith gives us power to generously say “yes” to God and to grow stronger in love and in the likeness of Jesus in order to serve God and others.

It isn’t a matter of increasing our faith; it’s a matter of living our faith – as Jesus taught us.