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Sunday, October 2, 2016

The challenge and the response

Sometimes, relationships can be strengthened or destroyed based on attitudes.  This week, my reflection focuses on the attitude we have when we consider our relationship with God and with one another.

Faith the size of mustard seeds

Pringles potato chips were on sale the other day.  I bought three cans and put them on the counter in my kitchenette.  A few days later, I opened one of the cans ... and the chips had disappeared.  The same thing seems to happen to bags of chocolate or jelly beans!  Have you ever noticed that sometimes no matter how much we have, we always want more?  This is a danger for us who live in such a materialistic society, and worse yet, there is always a danger that our want for more will invade our relationships with others and with God.  Sometimes we can be most critical of those who are closest to us, and there is evidence of this also in the scripture passages we have heard today.

The prophet Habakkuk was entrusted with the task of speaking God’s word to the people of his time, yet even he who would have been considered by others to be close to God dared to challenge his authority: O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen (Hab 1:2).  The disciples had been with Jesus for quite some time, witnessing his miracles, listening to his teachings, yet they too dared to ask him: Increase our faith (Lk 17:5).  Despite the fact that we too have experienced God at work in our lives, even we might be tempted to cry out: Increase our faith, because there are times when we want more proof that Jesus is indeed who he is.  It’s easy to have faith when we see miracles happening, but not so easy when it seems that God is silent, yet it is precisely in moments when God seems to be silent that he whispers to us: If you had 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 (Lk 17:6).

Faith the size of a tiny mustard seed: that’s all it takes.  Faith, like love, is not something that can be held and kept hidden; it is something that is done.  We need to do our faith every day: to put our faith into action.

Half a century ago, the United Nations declared the decade of the 1960s as one of great hope and development.  In Canada, institutions such as CIDA – the Canadian International Development Agency and the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) were created.  The Second Vatican Council gathered bishops from all parts of the world to make changes to the Church’s practice and to study the signs of the times.  Bishops from poorer and less developed nations – referred to as the Global South – identified their concerns for finding ways to address the poverty, hunger and disease that were killing millions.  Their concerns were heard and a renewed effort to become the Church of the poor was begun.  Faith the size of a mustard seed resulted in the creation of a series of Church-sponsored international aid organizations, including the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, which in this coming year will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Throughout the past five decades, Development and Peace has educated Canadian Catholics about the struggles faced by our brothers and sisters due to dictatorships in Latin America, fighting against apartheid in South Africa, speaking out against militarization, calling for the respect of rights by mining companies and for policies that guarantee access to water and seeds for farmers.

The gift of God is planted within each one of us (cf 2 Tim 1:6).  It bears fruit in little acts of love and self-discipline, and continues to grow as we engage in the work that God asks us to do.  It doesn’t take much: an uncalled-for compliment can brighten someone’s mood; a volunteered offer to help with chores around the house won’t go un-noticed; and imagine God smiling at us as we utter simple words of gratitude for a meal that we are about to receive.
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