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(Part 10)


November 12, 2012
Today’s gospel: Luke 17:1-6

In our work of evangelization, we are called to overcome Satan, evil and the culture of death, with all their powerful worldly forces that are against faith, family and life. It is a seemingly almost impossible task. But then, Jesus already did conquer Satan and death. We can too. As our theme for 2013 says, whoever believes in Jesus will do the works he did, and even greater ones than those (Jn 14:12)!

This is a call to faith (more specifically we Catholics are in the Year of Faith). And we know that faith works wonders. Indeed Jesus himself said, “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 17:6). Amazing!

But .... is that not impossible? Has anyone in the history of the world, including Jesus, actually commanded a mulberry tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea, and been obeyed?

Well, what is harder, to move a mulberry tree thus, or to move a mountain with a similar command? Though both seem impossible, if it could be done, I would think the latter would be much harder (a mountain is just so much larger and heavier than a mulberry tree). But what does Jesus say? “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Mt 17:20b-c). Say that again? Nothing will be impossible for you!

How can that be? Well, “nothing will be impossible for God.” (Lk 1:37). Jesus affirms this: “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” (Mt 19:26). So what needs to happen? We need to have faith and to become another Christ. We need to be in the place Jesus wants us to be, that is, stepping into his very sandals. We need to BE.LI.EV.E!

Now Jesus never uprooted a mulberry tree or moved a mountain simply by a command. He was not a magician or a performer. He acted not to impress the crowds. He wanted people to have authentic deep-seated faith, not awe at magical works, which awe quickly fades. He did do miracles, like commanding the storm to cease, or walking on the water. But all these were designed to plant and build faith.

If we have the faith of Jesus, it is also not to literally uproot trees or move mountains, but to do the very works of Jesus, and even greater ones that those. We then become effective instruments for proclaiming his salvation and building his Kingdom on earth.

Now we do have faith. After all we believe in Jesus and are Christians striving to truly live the Christian life. Jesus says that even with small faith, just the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains. What is this mountain-moving faith? What is still lacking in the faith we now have? Jesus tells us, “Have faith in God.” (Mk 11:22b). How?

First, we must not doubt God nor His power. We must know God to be the Almighty, the Creator of all, the Mighty One who conquers all. God raised Jesus from the dead, and defeated Satan and evil. God provides us His Holy Spirit in order to enable us to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. We act on this firm knowledge. We act in the name of Jesus. We stand in his place. We believe in all God’s promises. “Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him.” (Mk 11:23).

Second, we ask in prayer. BE the friend of Jesus, one who communicates and communes with him daily. Pray without ceasing. Jesus assures us, “Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours.” (Mk 11:24). “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.” (Mt 21:22).

Third, remain in Jesus. LIve the way of Jesus. Trust in all his promises. Be holy as he is holy. Jesus assures us, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.” (Jn 15:7).

Fourth, we forgive. We cannot truly effectively pray unless our hearts and minds are clean--of anger, bitterness, hate, grievances. Thus Jesus tells us, “When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions.” (Mk 11:25). We are all sinners, but God forgives us when we repent. To be another Christ, we must do the same for those who sin against us.

Before Jesus talked about the mustard seed faith, he said, “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” (Lk 17:3b-4). Forgiveness favors the one who forgives more than the one who is forgiven. It removes any poison or bitterness in us. It makes us like Jesus who forgave us all, even when we were sinners.

Fifth, we love. This actually is a command. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus says, “This I command you: love one another.” (Jn 15:17). We are not only individually to be other Christs, but we are collectively the body of Christ. We must be one in heart and mind in the love of Jesus. In fact, as Paul says, “if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Cor 13:2b).

In this Year of Faith, with the call to the New Evangelization, we are to believe in Jesus, and we will do greater works than he did. Because Jesus has already gone to the Father (Jn 14:12c), and now it is our turn to continue his work of bringing salvation to all. We are to EVangelize in the name of Jesus. And we are assured by Jesus himself: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.” (Jn 16:23b). We ask in faith. Jesus challenges us, “Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive” (Jn 16:24a-b).

We know that God has called us and chosen us. By God’s grace we are responding to His call. Jesus says, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain” (Jn 15:16a-b). Jesus chose us, appointed us, and tells us to go. We obey in faith.

We look to accomplishing the impossible. Can Europe be restored to vibrant Christian faith? Can the culture of death be overcome and the culture of life restored? Can we attain to the holiness of God? Can we be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect? Can we bring the salvation of God to the whole world?

We can! Because it would be Jesus at work. We merely act in his name. “And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.” (Jn 14:13-14).

We can! If we have faith. We pray and say to Jesus, “Increase our faith.” (Lk 17:5). We BE.LI.EV.E! Then our theme for 2013 will come to pass. “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.” (Jn 14:12).

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