Luke 17:5-10

This section begins with the apostles asking for increased faith, and is in response to Jesus' teaching that a follower must be endlessly forgiving. They already have faith, or they would not have left family and career to follow Jesus, but they now have the wisdom to realize that their faith is not as strong as they would wise or as strong as God would wish. Jesus confirms this with his statement that great faith can accomplish great things. Enough faith can move a tree to the sea.

 

Augustine points out that this level of faith is rare and calls it perfect faith.

"But in asking whether the Son of Man would find faith on earth at his coming, the Lord was speaking of perfect faith. That kind of faith is indeed hardly to be found on earth. Look at God's Church: it is full of people. Who would come here if faith were non-existent? But who would not move mountains if that faith were present in full measure? Mark the apostles: they would never have left everything they possessed and spurned worldly ambition to follow the Lord unless their faith had been great; and yet that faith of theirs could not have been perfect, otherwise they would hot have asked the Lord to increase it." St. Augustine (Sermon 115: PL 38, 655)
 

 

Luke however immediately joins the story about the servant doing his duty to this discussion. It looks like a comment on the apostles, that they are only doing their duty and so deserve no special praise. However, I think there is a deeper meaning here. The word faith can also mean loyalty. The servant who is loyal to his master, will be faithful to the master's requirements. In this case the work is God's work.

 

If a group of people who are disciples faithfully, and loyally do as God wants day by day, they may not do anything spectacular individually, but God working in and through them can accomplish great things. This often occurs without them being even aware of what is happening or their part in the process. It is only later than it can be seen. Therefore, the apostles by doing the Master's bidding, and even being executed before they could see significant results, nevertheless set the stage for a worldwide Jesus movement now called Christianity. The "mountain" of hostility from the Roman Empire, the political, military, and economic superpower of that age, was moved, changed and overcome by faithful service to our Master's will.

 

It is the unglamourous, loyal, faithful service of individuals that together do great things. Mountains get moved, not by our doing it, but by God, in us all, doing it. (Matt. 17:20 NIV; but see 1Cor. 13:2 NIV.)

 

"In order that the message of salvation can show the power of its truth and radiance before men, it must be authenticated by the witness of the life of Christians. "The witness of a Christian life and good works done in a supernatural spirit have great power to draw men to the faith and to God." CCC 2044

"By living with the mind of Christ, Christians hasten the coming of the Reign of God, "a kingdom of justice, love, and peace." They do not, for all that, abandon their earthly tasks; faithful to their master, they fulfill them with uprightness, patience, and love." CCC 2046

 


From a sermon by the pastor, 10/3/04. All rights reserved.