by Father Mike Stubbs
If you could choose a superpower, what would you choose? X-ray vision? The ability to fly? Telepathy? Invisibility? Superphysical strength?
In Sunday’s Gospel reading, Lk 17:5-10, Jesus tells the apostles: “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.”
Now, that’s a superpower! We do not need to take Jesus’ words literally to understand that he is emphasizing the extreme power of faith. Just a little bit will go a long way.
Notice the reference to a mustard seed. It reminds us of the parable which compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed (Lk 13:18-19). In both cases, Jesus is drawing attention to the small size of the mustard seed.
How is it possible that an inanimate object like a mulberry tree might obey anyone, whether that person had any faith or not? It is just as unlikely that a tree be planted in the ocean, instead of solid ground. It’s impossible.
But Jesus is telling the apostles, and us, that faith can enable us to accomplish the apparently impossible. Faith enables us to go beyond our narrow vision, to see the possibilities that only God sees.
One hundred years ago, it did not seem possible for any human being to walk on the moon. Fifty years ago, it did not seem possible that the Iron Curtain erected by the Soviet Union would ever fall. But these seemingly impossible events have happened.
With faith, we can do the impossible. We place our faith in modern science. We place our faith in our own human willpower. But imagine what can happen if we place our faith in Almighty God.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells the apostles that their faith can make even inanimate objects obey them, like the mulberry tree planting itself in the sea. Then he goes on to discuss their role as God’s servants: “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”
The concept of obedience links these two sections of the Gospel. On one hand, faith can make even inanimate objects obey the apostles. On the other hand, as God’s servants, the apostles are obliged to obey whatever God commands, without any expectations on their part.
We obey God, and then all things will obey us. Even mulberry trees.