Faith And Grateful Service



Today’s Gospel falls into two distinct parts.

First, the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith. Jesus’ response does not imply that the disciples have no faith. His point seems to be that the little faith they have is enough to work miracles if only they exploited its possibilities to the full.

As so often, Jesus employs everyday images – not without a touch of exaggeration – to drive home the point. On the one hand, a mustard seed is proverbially small. On the other hand, the extensive root system of the mulberry tree makes it notoriously difficult to uproot. Yet a word proceeding from a tiny amount of faith could bring about this effect. It is people of faith who channel God’s power into the world.

In the second part of the Gospel we might find off-putting both the image of slavery and, even more, the suggestion that God regards us as ‘worthless slaves’ who deserve no gratitude whatsoever.

Jesus draws upon an aspect of life familiar to his audience (slavery) without necessarily approving of it. His point is that we should not serve God in the hope of gaining payment or due reward. That would amount to the kind of ‘merit’ mentality that St Paul, in particular, excluded.

Long before we do any good work ourselves, our faith should make us conscious of the immense benefits we have already received from God. Our Christian service, then, will be an expression of faith and love, motivated by abiding gratitude for all God has done for us.

Brendan Byrne, SJ