Monday, October 04, 2010

27th Sunday - homily

Years ago, a GW student approached the chaplain with a question: “Father, how can I be a better Catholic?” One of the chaplain’s suggestions was to start attending daily Mass. The student did this and in that experience found his vocation to the priesthood. Now, he is a happy priest. A student came to me a few weeks ago and said that while she goes to Mass every Sunday, she was looking for something more. In our conversation, she realized she needed to increase the knowledge of her faith which she has been doing ever since. Last year, two students came to me in back-to-back weeks asking to have their faith in Christ restored. They had strong faith in high school but lost it when they came to GW. I met with them individually and did the same thing both times: Confession, Adoration, and Benediction. It was a powerful experience for each of them; they have been strong in the faith ever since.

The GW students in each of these examples are like the Apostles in today’s Gospel (Lk 17:5-10) asking the Lord, “increase our faith”. The Apostles give the Lord a command, but it is actually done with humility. They say this after Jesus teaches them to forgive in radical ways. They realize they aren’t there yet, and ask Him for help. They recognize they don’t have the power to increase their own faith. They recognize that faith is a gift given by God. They are asking the Lord to increase the gift…to crank up the power…to give them more juice.

The Lord responds by saying that, “ 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.” Is he implying they have no faith? I doubt it. He is using a little Jewish hyperbole to teach them and us. The point he is making is that even the smallest faith – and the mustard seed is the tiniest seed – brings great power. Every single one of us received faith the size of a mustard seed at our Baptism. That is when God gave us the gift of faith. At our Baptism, then, we received great power. It is not our own power; it is the power of God coming through the Holy Spirit. As St. Paul writes in today’s second reading (2 Tim 1:6-8, 13-14), it is a spirit of “power”, not a “spirit of cowardice”.

You and I have great power because of our faith in Christ! As believers, we should expect powerful things to happen in our prayers and experiences. Expect miracles every day! You have told me of the power you have and the miracles that have taken place through your faith. One of you told me last week that you have praying for pregnant mothers to choose life. Then, you found out that a family friend is pregnant and is choosing life – an answer to your prayers! Another one of you has been praying for your sister to become Catholic for a long time. Last summer, out of the blue, she asked you how she can become Catholic! One of the most powerful examples came last year. A student came to see me about his family. He was very worried about going home for Christmas because there was so much tension in the family…so much anger…so much hatred. I told him to pray every day for reconciliation and healing in his family. He came back after Christmas break to tell me that there had been major reconciliation in his family over Christmas. Powerful stuff. Expect miracles!

It’s powerful stuff in your prayer and also in your experiences. It takes the spirit of power to come here every Sunday. It’s the spirit of cowardice that keeps people away from Mass. Some would say it’s a miracle that you’re at Mass in college. I’m looking at dozens of miracles right now. And, it’s a miracle when you bring someone else to Mass in college. It takes great power to live chastity in college. It takes great power to live self-control. It takes great power to live the virtue of temperance in college.

And yet, when all of this stuff happens, we shouldn’t be that surprised. It’s the power of God! In the second part of the Gospel, Jesus is saying that we shouldn’t look for pats on the back, get a big head, or take credit for what God does in our lives. This stuff is really par for the course in the lives of true believers. We are simply doing what He commanded. He says in Mark 11: “Have faith in God. All that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours”.

Finally, you might be sitting here tonight thinking, ’I don’t have any faith right now’. If your faith is dead due to serious sin, please consider going to Confession. Confession resurrects faith that is dead. If you’re thinking that your faith is very small right now – like the size of a mustard seed – I would recommend going to the Eucharist. The Eucharist nourishes our faith. It’s the greatest nutrient to help mustard seed-size faith. Start hitting the 12 o’clock daily Mass at the Newman Center. I promise you this: if you start going to daily Mass in the state of Grace, your faith will increase! If you’re sitting here thinking that you want your faith to increase but have no clue of what to do, please come and see me. I can offer suggestions based on your situation. May each one of you realize the power you have in your faith in Jesus Christ. May you continue to imitate the Apostles. May each of you say to the Lord every day of your lives, “increase our faith”.

1 comment:

Matt Shoemaker said...

Great post FG!