Luke’s Gospel sometimes presents discipleship in terms of Jesus’ heavy expectations of his followers. In light of his demands, it is unsurprising that the apostles wish to increase their faith (17:5). We are a bit like that at times, especially when the going gets tough. But the disciples seemingly can’t win with Jesus today. He appears to rebuke them; “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed,” suggests that the apostles’ stores of faith are near rock bottom.
Perhaps, however, there is more to the story. When we ask for greater faith, what do we want? Are we seeking certainty, perhaps even a faith which is superior to the faith of others? Is faith a skill to be mastered, a box to be ticked on the Application For Discipleship form? Some seek a mystical experience, some a faith that helps them through life’s challenges, a bit like a drug. Some seek faith as an antidote to struggle; for others, a faith to overcome personal or economic hardship, or even to promote their own economic prosperity.
For most of us, a mustard seed of faith and modest discipleship, supported by God’s grace, may be all we need; just enough faith to open the window, in order to let God in. Discipleship generally requires neither unshakable confidence nor spectacular accomplishments. Luke’s Jesus seems to make extraordinary demands upon his disciples who, after a few fits and starts, established the early church. Yet sometimes, discipleship requires only ordinary and daily practices of fidelity and service.
Today’s Psalm reading is a beautiful invitation to let God in and so says much about faith.
Brian Norman has been associated with the Passionists in various ways since he was three weeks old when he squared off with Fr Placid Millay CP over the baptismal font at St Brigid’s, Marrickville.