A Little is a Lot
In the Gospel Reading, Jesus says that if you have faith even as big as a mustard seed, you could command trees and they would obey you. A mustard seed is very small. But none of us can get trees to obey our commands. And so, from this, it is clear that the faith any of us has is not even a very small amount.
That’s not the only disheartening thought in the Gospel Reading. It gets worse. No matter how much faith you have, as the Gospel Reading makes plain, you are still highly unsatisfactory. Jesus says that, however hard you work in the service of the Lord, at the end of the day, recognizing all your sins in the day, you should say to yourself, I am an unprofitable servant of the Lord’s.
This isn’t a good thought to have before going to bed, is it? And it does make it hard to get out of bed in the morning, too. Who wants to wake up with this thought: “Oh boy, another day for me to be my sinful self! At the end of this day, I will be inadequate, unsatisfactory, and unprofitable!”
You can see why the prophet in the First Reading would say to the Lord, “How long, O Lord!” The prophet thinks it is hard to wait for the Lord to do something about the sins of other people. But it can be hard to wait for the Lord to take care of our own sins too. How long indeed!
If we live in the Lord, then we can also rejoice in the LordBut the First Reading also says that the just will live by faith. Now real living is joyous, not depressive. And here’s another thing to see. The First Reading doesn’t mention how much faith you need in order to live. So, apparently, any amount is enough. Your faith doesn’t have to be even mustard seed size. You will still live, really live, as long as you have any faith at all.
And so we can wait for the Lord to do something about our sins. It doesn’t take even as much faith as a mustard seed for us to live. And if we live in the Lord, then we can also rejoice in the Lord, even if we are also still unprofitable servants.
And if it brings a life of joy in the Lord, then however little our faith is, it is a lot, isn’t it? And that is itself a joyful thought.
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University
**From Saint Louis University