The Lord Increased Our Faith!
Onye nonso? Please help! Helpoooo was the cry of a man who fell off a mountain cliff. Half-way down the cliff he succeeds in grabbing a branch of a tree; dangling on the branch was helpless and looks up to heaven and shouts, “onye nonso please help?” A voice comes from heaven, “Yes, I am here. I am the Lord. Do you believe in me?” The man shouts back, “Yes, Lord, I believe in you. I really believe. Please help me.” The Lord says, “All right! If you really believe in me I will save you. Now let go of the branch.” The man thinks about awhile and ignored the voice rather shouted all the louder “onye nonso please help?”
I wonder if this man truly believed in God as he claimed, why then did he not take God on His word? Why did he not let go of the branch to which he clinged? Is God not able to save him? Ah! There you are: many would laugh at the man because we can recognize ourselves in this man. We believe in God, but when the going gets tough and things do not work out as we expect we take matters into our own hands or look for help elsewhere. We believe, yes; but we are people of little faith. The apostles too, the gospels tell us, are men of little faith. They believe in Jesus and follow him, but when they saw the soldiers approaching in the garden of Gethsemane they abandon Jesus and fled. Nevertheless, quite unlike the apostles hardly do we acknowledge that we are men of little faith. Little wonder they came to Jesus in today’s gospel saying “Lord, Increase our faith!” As the saying goes, he who does not know, and does not know that he does not know, is a fool. But he who does not know, and knows that he does not know, is a wise man. The apostles knew that their faith was a little faith and needed to be increased and taking a bold step in this regard. What steps do you take to improve your faith? How many retreats, seminars or bible study classes have we attended? How many books have we read? These are means through which the Lord increases our faith.
It was after World War II that the following was found written on a cellar wall in Cologne. ‘I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when I feel it not. I believe in God even when he is silent’. It is about belief, and it is about trust and loyalty. If we look at faith as belief, it means that we accept things that don’t have any real evidence or logical proof. For example, belief in God or belief in an afterlife. People have come up with proofs for God’s existence, but in reality, most people believe it in faith. This is faith in itself not as attached to particular favor we desire of God. Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God.
Faith means, whether I am delivered now or not, I will stick to my belief that God loves and cares for me. This is the mistake of the young man caught in the mountain cliff. He has faith in his own deliverance, not in God’s infinite power to save and unfailing love for him. God’s unconditional love for us demands only one proper response from us, our unconditional love and service of God. So many of us Christians today believe that true and mature faith consists in our ability to obtain miracles from God. The truth that today’s gospel shows us is that mature faith consists not in how much God attends to our immediate needs but in how willing we are to serve God unconditionally, without counting the cost.
Let us today join the apostles in asking the Lord to increase our faith. The prophet Habakkuk was in a dilemma resulting from disappointment. Thus turbulent moments pushed him to ask God; ‘how long do I have to see violence and destruction and misery before losing my faith’? How many times can we be depressed and alone and unanswered before we give up? How often when a crisis comes we concentrate on the crisis instead of on God. This is the common fault of humanity.
The answer to Habakkuk was that if you are a just person, and act justly to others with integrity, your faith will be strengthened as a result of your living, and even though the rewards are delayed, you can be sure they will come. In this case, faith seems to be increased by living morally and honestly which is being loyal to God’s commands. Every time the Hebrews suffered a setback in the desert after escaping from Egypt they complained and said that it was better in Egypt and they should never have left. What a short memory they had, forgetting the miracle of the exodus.
In one sense we could say the great sin of the Old Testament is the sin of forgetfulness; the Chosen People forgot what God had done for them and instead only looked at the difficulties around them and then they sinned. I find this interesting because we, in our culture, feel that we live morally and truthfully because we have Christian faith. But here God puts the cart before the horse and says that by living morally and truthfully, you will increase your faith. You become more loyal to God by acting loyally to God. Remember; ‘…the just one, because of his faith, shall live’. (Hab 2:4)
Presently we find ourselves with diminishing faith in our political institutions. Then there is the faith required for successful human relations. Our everyday dealings with others depend on trust. Unfortunately, people betray that trust, either by momentary weakness, or by premeditated deception, or when they run hidden agendas on us. The corporate scandals of recent years show us that humans can deceive in monstrous ways. Because of such sad experiences, as we grow older, we become more circumspect and tend to have only a few really close friends.
Our faith increases when we grow in servitude. Why? Because in serving others, we become more in the likeness of Jesus who served when He washed the feet of His apostles. [Jn. 13:15] As we grow closer to Jesus in our daily personal relationship, we come to know His Divine Presence, His love, His mercy, etc… all of this leading towards unshakable faith. True faith is unselfish. Living faith is unselfish faith. It seeks to give rather than receive. It seeks to obey God, not “me, I and myself.” Unselfish faith is humble, not full of pride. It admits that “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done.” (Lk. 17:10)
In conclusion, sometimes people say that, in response to the tragedy they have encountered, they have lost faith, as if they have lost their house keys or their wallets. The truth is, we can never lose our faith, we may be struggling to allow faith to shape our lives according to God’s sovereign desire. In the light of the apostles asking the Lord to increase their faith, we ask that He will grant us the grace on how to allow our lives to be more and more shaped by our trust in Him.