|27th Sunday in Ordinary time, 2 Oct 2016|
From the Dean’s Desk
Again this Sunday we are faced with a seemingly difficult Gospel [Luke 17:5-10] for our consideration and prayer. It comes across initially as a rebuke on the part of Jesus towards the disciples as they ask to have their faith increased [v. 5]. Jesus makes the analogy that had their faith been the size of a mustard seed then they could command this huge mulberry tree to be uprooted and hurled into the sea. [v 6]. There is an assumption here that the disciples did not possess the needed small amount of faith. To appreciate and understand this passage we need to take into consideration what comes before [v 1-4] and what follows [v. 11-19].
Preceding this request for an increase in faith, that makes up today’s Gospel, we find Jesus making certain statements or pronouncements. Firstly, he warns against those within the faith community who give scandal ‘to one of these little ones’ [v. 1-2]. We can take the reference of ‘little ones’ to go beyond referring to someone of a young age, but encompassing all who are innocent, blameless and easily impressed. Jesus warns that people such as these should not be allowed to stumble because of something we have said or done. Secondly, Jesus encourages the members of the community to go to incredible extremes in order to bring about forgiveness: if a member of the community sins and asks repentance, no matter how many times this occurs then the other is bound to forgive him [v. 3-4]. Our faith needs to be the basis of stimulus, example and edification to all members of the community, especially the ‘little ones’.
Following the request for faith is the encounter between Jesus and the ten lepers [v.11-19]. This encounter Luke tells us happens in foreign territory – ‘an area between Samaria and Galilee’ - as Jesus is journeying towards Jerusalem. It is as-sumed that these ten lepers were non-Jewish. Jesus heals them without pronouncing the words of healing – only telling them to show themselves to the priest as proof of their healing. On their way they become clean. [v.14]. It is the Samaritan – a foreigner – who returns and glorifies God and thanks Jesus for what has happened [v.16]. Here Jesus links faith (seen in the faith of the Samaritan leper) with thankfulness.
In order for us to live a life where we do not give scandal to others; where we are prepared to continually bring forgiveness to broken relationships if the other repents; if we are prepared to approach Jesus in our infirmity (as did the lepers), then we need to have faith the size of a mustard seed. If we do these things – live innocent, blameless and encouraging lives; if we continually forgive those who have wronged us and seek our forgiveness; if we approach Jesus in our weakness and thank him for his blessings, then ‘we have done what we were supposed to do’ [v.10]. Being a faithful servant of the Lord requires nothing but faith – a faith that grows and is life giving to me and to those in my community. This is the second time that Jesus uses the image of the mustard seed. He referred to the Kingdom of God as being like a mustard seed [Luke 13:19]. This second use of this image allows us to consider the ways in which our faith – like the mustard seed – can also grow and give life.
Fr Robert Bossini