Lk 17:5-19; 2 Tim 1:6-14; Hab 1:2-3:4
As a priest, I often have people say to me that they’re not sure what they believe, they’re not sure if there is a God, they’re just not sure.
In that context, today’s Gospel gives us a very important line from the Apostles, namely, a reference to what we are to do when our faith is weak:
The apostles made a prayer, “Lord, increase our faith!” (Lk 17:5), which pretty obviously means that they felt their faith was weak.
This echoes a similar prayer we hear uttered in Mark’s Gospel: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”(Mk 9:24)
Obviously, faith is a great thing.
When our faith is strong, we are strong.
When our faith is strong, we can do things that otherwise are IMPOSSIBLE, like casting mulberry bushes into the sea (which, by the way, none of the 12 Apostles ever did -they never took that literally, c.f. St John Chrysostom in St Thomas Aquinas’s Catena Aurea, vol3, p.581).
But, and this is my point to you today, sometimes our faith can feel weak.
In our second reading, we heard St Paul tell Timothy about “timidity”, because it seems Timothy was being weak, “timid” in the face of “hardships”.
In our first reading, we heard of hardships of a different kind: the suffering and “oppression” that the prophet Habakkuk witnessed -often people find that their faith is weakened in the face of such evils.
What are we to do when our faith is weak?
Prayer is one of the most vital things we need to do when our faith is weak.
Even if we’re not sure we believe.
Even if we’re not sure we trust.
These are the very times we need to gather up what little faith we have, and call out to Him:
“LORD, increase our faith!”(Lk 17:5)
There is a poem that I have on a plaque, that I have often recited when life seems dark:
“Trust Him when dark doubts assail thee.
Trust Him when thy strength seems small.
Trust Him, when to simply trust Him,
Seems the hardest thing of all”.
We shouldn’t feel surprised at the fact that it’s sometimes hard to trust, hard to believe.
The 12 were with the Lord non-stop for 3 years, yet still their faith was weak.
St Paul reminded Timothy that when he was ordained, the laying on of hands (2 Tim 1:6) had imparted the Holy Spirit to him.
He told him to “fan into a flame” that gift that already lay within him.
When we feel weak, we should do the same.
Even if the flame seems small and flickering, fan it into a flame.
Hold to what little we have
–“keep” the “sound teaching” (2 Tim 1:13) rather than looking further at what weakens it.
Take that little faith, and lift it to Him.
Lift that little trust, up to Him.
and pray as they did, “Lord, increase our faith!”(Lk 17:5)