Maturing in the Faith
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

In daily life, one reality we are faced with is the reality that we are not born perfect. We do not have perfect physical attributes. We do not have perfect intelligence. We are not morally perfect. We are not born with perfect faith. We discover that living is a process of growing. Growing really happens when we recognize our own realities and our own possibilities.

Action starter: Do you experience moments of darkness? Keep believing.

We grow in our physical abilities. We learn how to crawl, to walk, to run, and to dance. We grow in our capability to understand and to reason. We develop in our capacity to widen our concerns - from self to others. We grow in love. We grow even in our faith.

Some people think that a holy person such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta ought to have a constantly clear vision of God and His plans. It made the news that Mother Teresa had to struggle with the seeming absence of God for many years. Some writers even dared to refer to this admission as Blessed Teresa's atheism. Like her namesake, St. Teresa of Avila, she had to contend with the dark night of the soul. In times of darkness, St. Teresa advised, one has to cling to God in faith, and continue doing what one knows to be in accord with God's will. It means constancy in following God's commandments under the guidance of the Church.

I remember my seventy-year old spiritual directors telling me as I was just starting my ministry, "Do you love the Giver because of the gift? Or do you love the gift because of the Giver?" Moments of joy, consolations "being high" and on top of the world are gifts from God. It is easy to love God and others when we are in these moments. There are however moments of sadness, desolations, and humiliations. Can we still love and serve God and fellowmen during these moments? If in faith we realize that everything comes from God or is allowed by God, then even moments of darkness are appreciated as gifts and opportunities to grow in faith, love, and hope.

The true mark of faith is to cling to God even in darkness. On a clear day, one does not need faith while sailing toward an island he sees. On a foggy day, when visibility is almost zero, one has to have faith in the person who has given him the nautical directions to reach the island.

The apostles asked the Lord in this Sunday's gospel reading, "Make our faith greater" (Lk. 17:5). They were asking for an instantaneous outpouring of faith. Instead, the Lord told them , "If you had faith as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Pull yourself up by the roots and plant yourself in the sea" (v.6). In one of His parables, Jesus likened the growth of the Kingdom to the growth of the mustard seed. What is important is the life-energy in the seed. It is not the size of the seed. Faith is not measured by the bucket-full or by truckload. Faith is a disciple's quality of that slowly grows, despite obstacles, trials, and tribulations.

The experiences of those who are close friends of God, from Abraham to Moses, Jeremiah, Mary, and His own Son Jesus show that their faith has not spared them from difficulties. They persevered in faith despite the trials and persecutions. Another facet in the life of friends of God is that in the early stages of the relationship, there is the "honeymoon stage" of joyfully experiencing and sensing the love and presence of God. As we persevere and grow in our faith-relationship, we start to experience the Cross.

One of the saints who carried in his body the marks of the wounds (stigmata) of Jesus was St. Francis of Assisi. He was also known to be the saint of joy. Even as he bore the wounds of the Lord, he proclaimed the love of God for all His creatures, including the birds, the bees, and the beasts.

When things are dark, I am comforted by these lines from a poem of Cardinal Newman,

Lead kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
lead Thou me on!
The road is dark and I am far from home --
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet, I do not ask to see
The distant scene - one step enough for me.