“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you”(Lk 17:6)
Judging by those standards, my faith is certainly smaller than a mustard seed. Or is it?
A faith that can uproot a tree sounds quite powerful… even better, it sounds terribly practical. A faith of that kind would be like a miracle-power on demand. I just want this, I believe with my “strong” faith and voila, it happens. The problem with that kind of faith is that it looks more like Harry Potter’s hocus-pocus than a personal trust in God.
Furthermore a faith that becomes a kind of super-power would make God our servant, a kind of un-bottled genie, ready to fulfill our wishes. This is precisely the idea of faith that Jesus tries to correct. We are God’s servants and at the end of the long tiring working day, we are no more than “useless servants.” And being a “useless servant” is a wonderful feeling.
A couple of Americans were stranded in some remote inaccessible coast and stayed there for a few days without any water. Finally a boat approached the area and rescued them. They tell how the first sips of water they were given were gradually filling their bodies with life. Giving water can hardly be classified as heroic, however, for these two stranded souls, it was a second chance to live again. The “givers” could hardly take credit for their work; but the receivers will be forever grateful.
This is how Christian ministry actually feels. To the one who serves, it is nearly nothing; to the one who receives, it is God himself working, a new kind of life being pumped into his system. The servant is “nearly useless”; the service is divine.
This is why living a life of faith can uproot trees and even move mountains… because God is working, and we are just the “voluntary agents” in His work. We might desire a kind of faith that uproot trees. But to tell the truth, there is no tree I need to uproot lately. In fact, moving communities is certainly harder than moving mountains, and this is what faith does.
We should not be surprised when St. Paul advices Timothy “to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.” ( 2 Tim 1:6). That is all the servant is asked to do: to fan into flame the gift. Then, the gift will work by itself, leading the community where God wants it to be led.
Next time we try to measure the size of our faith, we should not count the number of trees we can uproot; but rather, the number of times God has worked through our useless but God-filled contributions.