faith and doubt
27th Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: October 6, 2019
Do you have faith? At least do you think you have enough faith? So many people today struggle with faith. Many feel that they do not have faith or that they have lost their faith or that they are losing their faith. Many speak to me and they are worried and feel guilty because they have doubts.
Well, the Apostles in today’s Gospel ask Jesus, “Increase our faith.” It seems that the Apostles also struggled with faith, felt that they did not have enough faith. Jesus responds that they would only need the faith of a mustard seed. A tiny seed.
But, it is important that we have a proper catholic understanding of what is meant by faith .
Faith is about a trust, loyalty, holding on when it seems that you are receiving nothing in return. Any good long term relationship, such as marriage, requires a type of faith, a trust in the other that allows us to stay, to remain, even when things are difficult.
When we are not feeling anything, we stay rooted in this faith. It is the same with God, with the Lord Jesus. Our faith is a deep trust in the goodness of God, in the ultimate way of Jesus that leads to fullness of life and the Resurrection.
Sometimes our faith is not about trust, but a sense of entitlement. That if I go to Mass, if I follow Jesus, if I follow the commandments, then I should get a reward, should receive some benefits. Nothing wrong should happen in my life. I should be rewarded with prosperity in this life.
Jesus never promised us any rewards or recognition in this life. In fact, he tells the Apostles, that when they have done all that they were ordered to do, say “we are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done.”
We do not do what is right, what is true, what is good, we do not follow the way of Jesus with the expectation that then we will be rewarded, we will be prosperous, everything will work out exactly as I want in this life.
When we belong to a household, we do not expect to be paid for helping out around the house. I clean the house, do the dusting, help with the laundry, assist with cooking, but because we are part of a household, we do not expect to be paid like an employee.
So, it is with Jesus, when we unite to Jesus as a disciple, we become part of the household of God. There is no payment for doing what is expected of a member of the family in this household of God.
As Catholics, our vision of faith embraces faith and reason. We do not have a blind irrational faith. St. Augustine speaks about Faith seeking Understanding. Though faith requires a trust, we do not see the end, it does not mean that we do not strive for a rational faith. Therefore, faith and doubts also go together.
You do not need to panic or feel you are losing your faith because you have doubts. We are speaking of a trusting relationship with the mystery of God. Doubts are normal. In fact, doubts are an opportunity to go deeper in our faith, to strive to bring our understanding to a fuller level. Imagine if you still had the same faith as you did when you were 8 years old.
How do we grow in faith? Three important things we need to grow in faith. – study, prayer, and concrete acts of love.
We need to study, find good reading, good resources on the internet, to deepen our understanding of our faith, the reasons for our faith.
We need to pray. Keep praying even when we feel nothing, when it seems empty. St. Teresa of Avila speaks of going through a long period of dryness in her prayer when she felt nothing. The key is to remain in prayer even when it seems empty. For faith is not a feeling. Just as love is not a feeling. Faith is a choice, just as a true love is not a feeling but a choice. Saying yes even when we do not feel anything.
The key to marriage and to priesthood is to continue saying yes even when we go through periods where we feel nothing. Martin Luther King once described faith this way. “Faith is taking the first step even when you do not see the whole staircase.”
The third and most useful step to growth in faith is simply to go and love someone in a concrete way. Simply go and visit someone who is alone, who is sick, who is struggling, and in a very concrete way care for them in love.
So, if you are struggling with faith, if you have doubts, just relax. Do not panic. Faith and doubts go together. Faith, like love, is not about a feeling, it is a choice to remain loyal, to remain even when it seems dark, even when we do not see any immediate rewards.
Faith of a mustard seed is all we need. But, let that faith grow through study, persevering in prayer and going out to carry out simple acts of love in a very concrete way.