"Increase our faith." Lk 17:5
Faith is a strange and wonderful gift. While many of us spend our lives teaching about it, faith's mystery always remains. Faith can never be quantified or measured, only treasured. How strange then to hear the apostles in today’s gospel say, "increase our faith," almost as if it were like turning up the volume on the TV.
I’m smiling as I write about "volume." I remember telling my mother in the first years after ordination that I often worried about my preaching. Was I making sense? Were people able to follow me? Was I clear enough? Mom listened to my concerns and told me to do what other priests seemed to do: If you are not sure of what to say next, say it louder. I must admit I have used her advice more than once, but always knew what was happening. When I arrived at a point in my own thinking or a homily where a leap of faith was required to let God do God’s work, I doubted. Rather than allow the word to do its work, to let faith, the size of a mustard seed, take root and grow in God's time, I spoke more forcefully when a pause or even silence was needed.
That faith requires a leap has always been a helpful notion to me, and I think the great Franciscan Doctor of the Church, St Bonaventure would agree. In his classic work, The Mind’s Journey to God, Bonaventure insists that while it is possible to uncover the “traces” of God’s work in creation using observation, logic, and reflection, eventually we must submit ourselves to the mercy of God who leads us beyond logic into the heart of the mystery itself. Only when we let go of our own powers of reason can God open to us the wonders of the gift that God gives freely, completely and gratuitously. We cannot earn the gift of faith; we can only treasure it and give it away in compassion and justice.
Today, join the apostles and ask for an increase of faith for yourself and those closest to you.