The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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October 5, 2001 Issue
Fr. Ver Bust's Column:
"Explaining the Gospel"

Fr. Richard Ver Bust
Fr. Richard Ver Bust

Faith is both powerful and demanding

Faith is a precious gift from God that must be cultivated and used

October 7, 2001, Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Fr. Richard Ver Bust

This Sunday, much of what we hear are part of a collection of the sayings of Jesus. They continue what is important in being a disciple. Yet, even more so, they emphasize the role of God in bringing about the Kingdom of God. We learn that God works in mysterious ways to help us.

Today's Gospel has two parts. The first examines the power of prayer. Jesus uses two examples from nature to teach about the power of prayer. As we know from a different parable, people in Jesus' time thought that the mustard seed was the smallest of all seeds. They also knew that the mulberry tree had extensive roots. It was difficult to pull or dig out mulberry trees. So when Jesus said that faith that was as small a a mustard seed had the power to uproot the mulberry tree, faith must be able to do wonderful things. One should realize that when one has faith, spectacular things could happen.

The second part of the gospel reading is built upon what we have just learned. Jesus begins with a story which none of the apostles could disagree. There is no way anyone would act in the way Jesus described. If one is dealing with a servant they would be treated as a servant. We can presume too that there are only a few servants in this household for this one servant had multiple tasks. This servant is expected to plow, tend sheep, and also take care of preparing food and even serve at the table.

Most of us would agree with the fact that servants would not be expected to sit at the table and eat with a head of a household. Yet we also might think that after a long day of plowing or caring for sheep it is unreasonable for that master to expect such service at the table. When would the servant relax, sleep, and find time to eat? But Jesus is not teaching something about consideration. Jesus is trying to emphasize that the demands made upon the disciple are great and sometimes overwhelming.

Faith will give disciples the power to do what they are called to do. The servant cannot brag about all the things he must do or has done. This is what is expected of the servant. It sounds harsh but Jesus in his own life showed that the demands placed upon him were also challenging. He accepted his role and lived and died responding to God's call.

Faith is truly powerful but also demanding. It is not something that we do but it is a gift from God in and through which we respond to God's call. When we face as a people or a nation the tragedies of recent weeks than it is our faith that helps us accomplish great things. As disciples we too often know difficult times. Sometimes we even think that God is no longer at our side. But abiding faith helps us and encourages us to turn to God. Habakkuk wanted an answer from God. It sounds like the prophet is accusing God of abandoning him. Yet the First Testament shows how human the prophets were. The Letter to Timothy also speaks of the hardships that must be faced and asks that disciples have courage to do what is right.

Faith is a wonderful thing and can help us do what would often seem humanly impossible. It is a precious gift from God that must be cultivated and used. We are called to be the faithful servant described in today's gospel. We too will be able to do all the things demanded of us.

(Fr. Ver Bust holds the title of professor emeritus in religious studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)

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