Sunday, 2 October 2016
Casting Mulberry Bushes, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, West Moors
There are many things I don’t know about you, this congregation, but there is one thing I am certain about: none of you has ever said to a mulberry tree: “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”(Lk 17:6) and had it obey you.
Now, in case that discourages you, let me point out an interesting fact that I read in St Thomas Aquinas’s commentary (the Catena Aurea, vol3, p.581) on this text, namely, that St Chrysostom notes that actually none of the 12 Apostles achieved this feat either: Even after their faith was strengthened by Christ rising from the dead, even after they worked many miracles of healing, even after their faith was strong enough to endure martyrdom –none of them cast mulberry bushes into the sea.
So why didn’t they? After all, casting mulberry bushing into the sea would be a rather nice party trick –a good way to entertain our parishioners on a boring cold rainy winter day.
And here, I think, is the very reason why: Having faith and working miracles is not about party tricks. When Jesus worked miracles they were always for some purpose, for example, He fed the 5000 when they needed food, He cured those in need of healing of body and soul, etc. The closest we have to Him doing a party trick was when His disciples saw Him walk on the stormy water –but even this seems to have had the clear purpose of manifesting Himself to them by showing that He is the Lord God with dominion over creation and calming the storm that would have sunk them.
God is not about party tricks and His 12 Apostles were not about party tricks. The reason they didn’t tell trees to cast themselves into the sea wasn’t because of a lack of faith but rather, BECAUSE they had faith, they realised that there were other works God would have them do –greater works.
So, what are the greater works that God would have US do? We have an indication of at least part of this in the words that Jesus said after the above verse. He spoke not about spectacular things but about simple service. And He noted that simple service is the kind of thing we should be willing to do and then realise that “we have done no more than our duty”(Lk 17:19).
Living a life of simple service, to my neighbour, to my family, and to God, is not an easy thing. In fact, it is something that needs me to have not only great love but great faith.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that God is not interested in the details of our lives. But, actually, God is more interested in many of the unexciting unspectacular parts of our lives than He is in some of the things that WE might find more visible. God is love (1 Jn 4:16), and, what interests Him most is those things that we do in a manner that is full of love.
And, my point is this: It takes great faith to see this. It takes great faith to realise that God is ALWAYS present, always involved, always interested in the detail.
When I am in a hurry and I push past someone else in the supermarket –God sees this.
When I have a chance to return a phone call but just get on with my own busy-ness instead –God sees this.
God sees every opportunity for me to do small loving things.
And, in the eyes of the God who is love, what makes a thing big or small is how much love or how little love it is done with.
But, to repeat myself, it takes great faith to be continually aware of this truth, to be continually be in “the presence of God”,
it takes great faith to see things as God sees them.
If we have such faith, we shall do great things, greater than casting mulberry bushes into the sea.