By Father Brendan McGuire
Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, San Jose, and Vicar General for Special Projects, Diocese of San Jose.
When I was growing up in Ireland, all twelve children in the family had chores to do. We actually called them “charges,” because you were “in charge” of doing that or this. As you can imagine, there were a significant number of “charges” in the house, because we also ran a nine bedroom guest house. We would vacuum floors, clean sinks, wash sheets, make beds, and then there were the many dishes.
My “charge” was on a Monday night. I always felt that I got the short-end of the stick because on Monday night, there were the largest amount of dishes. After the whole weekend, every pot and pan would have been used, and all the leftovers were consumed by Monday. As a result, every dish had been used by Monday. At least that is the way I remember it! When we got our chores done, there was no recognition like “Brendan did his chores. Let’s give him a round of applause. Here’s a merit badge.”, We just did our chores as was expected. Did we feel good that it was done? Yeah, we felt good it was over. We never got paid to do chores. We did the chores because that is what we did.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus answers the question “How can we increase our faith?” rather strangely. At first he reminds them if they had faith the size of tiny mustard seed, it would be enough. He then says, curiously, “You should just do your duty. That is how you increase your faith: Do what you know you need to do; to love the Lord with all your heart; with all your mind; and all your soul. And love your neighbor as yourself.”
Do that day after day and our faith will increase enormously. We do it with a joyful heart out of gratitude for what God has given to us. That is the ultimate message.
What is faith? Let us start by looking at what it is not! The opposite of faith is anxiety, worry. It is not just worry about anything as we all have little worries about many things: “Am I looking good? Do I have the right clothes? Have I got my clothes on right?” Little things. But worry in faith is, ‘Has God forgotten me? Does God know my name? And is my name written in the halls of heaven?” It is the opposite of faith to worry about that.
If we believe wholeheartedly that no matter what I do God knows me by name. And God loves me no matter what. No matter how far I stray or no matter how wounded or broken I become, God loves me. That is to have great faith. If you have just the tiniest amount of that faith, it is enough. What we are called to do is to act out that faith, to increase it, to continue it and to believe it is to act out in full confidence that God loves me. And we do our duty with full confidence.