Jerusalem Bible © 1966 by Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd and Doubleday & Company Inc.
The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.
‘Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal immediately”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink yourself afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”’
Did you know?
Points of interest and Catholic lore
- The mustard seed is one of the smallest of seeds. Even a little faith is able to achieve wondrous things.
- A mulberry tree has a complicated root system, which makes it very difficult to move.
- In the New Testament period, servants were totally reliant on the master to provide everything they needed in return for their labour. Their status was really that of a slave.
- Jesus always presents the call to discipleship and belief as a call to service of others.
Exploring the Word
This text comes as Jesus is journeying towards Jerusalem, and he has already informed his disciples that he will suffer many things there (Luke 9:44–45). In the verses just prior to this text, Jesus has told the disciples that they must constantly forgive wrongs that are done to them. It is little wonder that the disciples are confused and beg Jesus to increase their faith. They want to believe in him, but some of the things he teaches are very difficult. Jesus explains that even a little faith can work miracles.
The second part of this text is confusing. The servant in question is probably very grateful that he has a field to plough or sheep to tend and a home to return to. He is utterly dependent on the master, and it would be a disorder if the master served the servant! We too are dependent on God, who provides for all our needs. Our task in return is to serve faithfully. When we have done our best in this, we have done our duty.
- Share stories of people you may have known who have been committed to their faith. What was it that inspired them? Has this been part of what inspires you in your journey to faith?
- Who are some of the great saints who showed commitment to their faith? Share their stories. What inspiration can we take from their witness?
Opportunities for group discussion and personal prayer
- ‘Lord, increase my faith.’ What more can you do to nurture your faith?
- ‘We are merely servants.’ How is God calling you to serve?
- What do you see as your duty?
- Share stories of a time when you felt that you ‘did your duty’. Are there times when ‘duty’ is tedious and becomes an unwelcome chore? Have there been times when performing your duty was joyous or stimulating? What is ‘your duty’ at this point in your life?
- Perform as many small acts of service as you can this week.
- Use today’s entrance antiphon as your prayer this week:
Within your will, O Lord, all things are established,
and there is none that can resist your will.
For you have made all things, the heaven and the earth,
and all that is held within the circle of heaven,
you are Lord of all.
Sharing the tradition
A closer look at the Scripture of the day, to see how it makes more explicit God’s word to us through the teachings of Jesus Christ
‘Faith is first of all a personal adherence to God. At the same time it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed’ (CCC, §150). Faith is both a gift from God through divine grace (§153) and a human act, in which the intellect and will freely assent to and accept God’s revealed truth (§156). St Anselm once defined theology as ‘faith seeking understanding’, because, in faith, one seeks to know better the One who is revealed and to understand better what is revealed; to penetrate the mystery ever more deeply so that faith can become even stronger (§159). Faith cannot be forced; it must be a free human response to God. But faith can be fostered and nurtured. Without care, it can wither and die. The Church provides assistance in keeping our faith alive or, as the letter to Timothy says, of fanning our faith into a flame.
- Discuss how the flame of faith is being fanned in the catechumen’s journey to baptism. Invite the catechumens to offer suggestions on ways you can improve your program. Is there more that they need? What further supports could be offered?
- You might explore other practices that can help do this: meditation, prayer, liturgy, devotional reading, group discussion and so on.
- How can we continue to nourish faith in the lifelong journey to God?
Symbols and images
Two key concepts are linked in this short gospel passage: faith and service. To be a person of faith is to be a person of service, and faithful service to others in the name of the Gospel will have its own reward. This gift of faith is precious. Read today’s second reading (Timothy 1:6–8, 13–14) and contemplate how you can guard this precious gift.
Living the Word
Practical ideas for group leaders to employ in connecting Scripture and daily life, with suggestions for music and environment
- What faith-sharing opportunities exist within your community? Are there ways catechumens can become involved in these? Is there a need to provide further adult faith-sharing opportunities? How might this be done?
- Use the open Scriptures and a cross, the symbols of our faith, as a focus for prayer. Pray for the gift of faith and for a strengthening of faith. Pray for the vocation of service to others. A suitable song could be ‘This is our faith’ (GA 348) or ‘In faith and hope and love’ (GA 442). This could be an appropriate week to have an anointing. Consider the Rite in the RCIA at §101.