The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith!' The Lord replied, 'If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, "Be uprooted and planted in the sea," and it would obey you. 'Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, "Come here at once and take your place at the table"? Would you not rather say to him, "Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink"? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, "We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!" '
There is no evident nexus between Christ’s statement on faith in answer to the apostles’ request, and the parable which follows, except perhaps that faith alone is not sufficient. The follower of Christ must also do his duty.
At the beginning of the gospel, what the apostles are asking for here is greater confidence, greater trust in God, so that they can work the miracles which Jesus worked. This becomes evident when we see the contexts in Matthew and Mark in which the same ides expressed. Jesus had withered a fig tree by a simple wish. The apostles marveled at this. He told them that if they had greater faith they could order a mountain to hurl itself into the sea and it would obey them (Matthew 21:18 and Mark 11:20). What the apostles needed, therefore, was greater trust in God.
But Jesus answered them with a parable, and the parable needs little explanation. The master expects the servant to carry out his orders. When he returns from working in the fields, he has house work to do. His master does not feel indebted to him for this. This is what he is being paid for, this is his role in life. So it is with Christ’s apostles.
Although the words we have read were addressed to the apostles, they apply to all of us, each in his own station in life. Following the example of the apostles, we must all pray for greater trust in God. Most of us are inclined to forger God and his providence when our earthly affairs are going well. How often do we than him when we are enjoying good health, and when our home life and business are going smoothly? How many Catholics make a novena of thankisgiving for all the gifts thy have received and are receiving daily from God’s providence? How many , rather, pat themselves on the back for what they claim as their own successes?
It is only when a storm arises in their lives that they think of him. Remember that storm on the Lake of Gennesaret. The apostles were rowing cheerfully across the lake. They were probably telling tall yarns about the size and the number of fish they had caught there in their day. They may have been striving against one another to show who was the strongest oarsman. They did not seem to notice that Jesus was sleeping soundly in the bow of the boat. They thought of him only when the storm arose, and then when they realized that they were in danger they shouted to him for help (Mark 5:37). They did not realize that both the calm and the storm were under his providence.
Too many of us also forget God and fail to give him the thanks for our well being, which we owe him. We rush to him only when trouble strikes. In his infinite goodness he often answers such panic prayers. If we had thought of him every day and realized his place in our lives with how much more confidence would we then approach him in our hour of special need? If our own personal lives were stronger how much more readily would we accept the adversities and the trials that he sends us or allows to befall us for our eternal good? We can all ask God today to increase our faith.
As regards our work for God’s kingdom and for the salvation of ourselves and of our neighbor we are like the apostles servants of God, and we should be proud of our status. We should be glad, thath is, that he allows us to cooperate with him in the building of his heavenly kingdom. Are we really dutiful servants in this regard? Let each one of us ask himself seriously today: What have I done up to now to help to make God known to my neighbor who is ignorant of God and never thinks of what will happen him after death? I may not be able to put in words very clearly what I know and believe about God and the future life, but I can speak to him far more convincingly by my way of living, by my daily actions.
The sincere Christian can find many ways to help to make Christ know to his neighbor without going on the foreign missions. There are pagans and unbelievers, often such through no fault of their own, and there are many lax Christians all around us. We should, and we can, have an effective influence on them and on their eternal future, if we ourselves live out Christian lives as Christ expects us to do.
Look around you today. Think of your fellow workers and those living in your own street. Many of them need help and need it badly. You can help them, God expects you to help them. It is his plan for getting you to help yourself to get to heaven. If you fail to cooperate with God by helping to bring his stray children back to him, you may find that you will be a straying child on your day of reckoning God forbid. Amen.