In today’s Gospel, Matthew 17:14-20, Jesus’ disciples are confused because they tried to drive out a demon from a young boy but could not. When they say to Jesus, “Why could we not drive it out?” He says to them, “Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Many of us do not have a deep, penetrating faith. Our faith is shallow, and often dissipates in the face of challenges. Jesus encourages us to develop our faith; to stretch our faith so that it will become stronger. This is something that we cannot do on our own. We need His grace and power. With Him all things are possible. Like the martyrs of old and the martyrs of today, we can confess our faith in the face of terrible situations and even die for Him if called upon. Amen!
Do I wish to follow Jesus? Do you wish to follow Jesus?
Jesus does not want half-hearted followers or those who have multiple allegiances. Jesus wants total commitment, and He wants it on His terms. We read in today’s Gospel, Matthew 16:24-28 …
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”
This is a life-long process. We have to be willing to commit ourselves. We will have all of the graces needed to follow through but willingness, even flawed willingness, is crucial. None of us wants the cross whatever that means for us. And yet it is through His passion and death on the cross that Jesus saves us. And it is through our own passion and death, united to His, that we find meaning in our lives.
What kind of a giver is God looking for? 2 Corinthians 9:6-10, today’s first reading, tells us:
“…for God loves a cheerful giver!”
It is possible to do the right thing for the wrong reasons. It is possible to do good things with a lousy disposition. It is possible to charm people with put-on smiles and flattering talk while wearing a mask concealing judgmental attitudes. This is not what God asks of us. What God asks of us is a positive attitude. Even if we don’t feel like it, we can choose to be “a cheerful giver.”
Earlier this morning, I found myself lost in some past events of thirty years ago wondering if I had made the right decision in a certain situation. I felt that I could have done more and regretted the fact that I had not taken full advantage of a certain opportunity. Then I told myself that it was useless to wander down those corridors. I then found myself projecting myself into a problematic future. What if? Before I knew it, I was creating a whole futuristic scenario that most likely will never happen! Neither was reality.
The truth is that the only reality that I have is the NOW. The past is over with. There is nothing that I can do to re-write it. On the other hand, the future is not here yet. It is always problematic. The only reality that I have is the present moment – the NOW. The present moment – the NOW – is God’s gift to me. Living focused in the present moment – the NOW -requires discipline. It is the essence of spirituality. God is in the present moment – the NOW – alive and active in my life. The only reality that I have is the NOW. It is in the NOW that I encounter my God.
Jesus was a much sought after itinerant preacher and miracle worker. From the Gospels, we know that He spent long hours teaching, preaching and healing. We are reminded; however, that He also spent long hours in prayer alone with His Father. We read at the beginning of today’s Gospel, Matthew 14:22-36, that after a long day with the crowds that followed Him, “…He dismissed the crowds. After doing so, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When it was evening, He was there alone.”
Jesus relished His time alone with His Father. From the hours of solitude and intimate conversation with His Father, He found refreshment, strength and the courage needed to continue His ministry. All of us need to follow His example. All of us need to take some time each day to put aside the many commitments that consume us and go to or create a quiet space where we can converse with the Father. We, too, need to spiritually refresh ourselves in solitude with the Father. We, too, need to find the courage and strength to live out our many commitments.