Growing in Faith
“Increase our faith!”
This imperative of the Apostles directed to Jesus was proclaimed at Masses
celebrated on the first weekend of October. Jesus responded in such a way as
to suggest that His followers had very little faith indeed, since all that
would be required to uproot a tree is faith the size of a tiny mustard seed.
Since we know Jesus was not given to insulting His followers, we can be sure
that this image was meant as encouragement for them and for us all.
As Luke’s Sunday Gospel readings progress through this month, we notice
several things pointed out by Jesus as necessary in order to grow in our
faith. The first is gratitude. Only one of the ten lepers who were cured
made the simple effort to thank Jesus for the favor, and the one who
returned to show gratitude was the one least expected to do so, a Samaritan.
Our deficiency in gratitude to God for all He has given us is one of the
causes for our poverty of faith. So, when we ask God to increase our faith,
we must include in our petition the desire for greater gratitude for all of
the wondrous things He does for humanity, but most especially for His dear
children of faith.
In the next Sunday’s Gospel passage, Jesus teaches his disciples of the
importance of perseverance, especially in prayer. How often we tire of
asking God for the same things over and over, sometimes wondering if He’s
even listening—or, worse yet, coming to the conclusion that He doesn’t
really care about me or my needs. Jesus reassures His listeners: “Will not
God secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?
Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice
is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith
on earth?” The implication here, it seems, is that perseverance—especially
in our prayer—will be one of the things our Lord looks for so as to
recognize His faith-ful disciples.
The subsequent weekend’s Gospel message emphasizes the importance of the
virtue of humility. The tax collector praying in the temple cries out, “O
God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Catholics assume this posture of humility
when participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus simultaneously
presents to His disciples words of caution and of encouragement: “Whoever
exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be
exalted.” Becoming aware of our sinfulness is the precursor to being sorry
for our actual sins. Thus the daily Examination of Conscience always has
been considered a standard part of every serious Christian’s prayer routine.
Jesus’ lessons to us about gratitude, perseverance in prayer and humility
stand as pillars of the spiritual life. If we, like the Apostles, want Jesus
to increase our faith, we need to concern ourselves with growth in these
fundamental principles of the Christian journey. Gratitude is based upon our
recognition that literally everything that is good comes from God as a gift.
Perseverance is the tell-tale sign that we have faith—at least in its
elemental form. And humility reminds us that we are not worthy of the
wonderful gifts with which God blesses us, bringing us full circle back to
gratitude. Our prayer intentions should and must include the desire to grow
in these basic virtues.
The simplest of prayers often can be the most far-reaching. We all stand to
benefit appreciably by making the Apostles’ simple petition to the Lord our
own: “Increase our faith!”
2013 Southern Nebraska Register Publication Dates
(Resume Jan 4, 2014)
November 27 (Wed.)