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10/2/16 Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Reggie

The Apostles did the right thing this time. They had been traveling with Jesus for more than a yearliving with him, hearing him preach, watching him perform miracles and change people's lives. They had been his disciples long enough to start realizing that they weren't very good disciples at all. They still didn't understand many things that Jesus said. They still couldn't help people as much as Jesus did. It would have been tempting for them, at that point, to get discouraged. But instead, they go up to Jesus one afternoon during a lull in their activities, and they ask for his help. They ask him to increase their faith.

Jesus' answer is mysterious. He looks at them and smiles. He must have been glad that they had asked for help instead of abandoning the mission. Then he tells them that they don't need more faith, they just need to use the faith they already have. He explains that a tiny little bit of faith, the size of a mustard seed - which is about as small as something can be without getting microscopic - is enough to do marvelous things.

We are all like the Apostles. We know in our hearts that we are capable of doing much more, that we were made for greater things. But we don't realize that God has already given us everything we need to achieve them. He has already planted in our souls the seed of faith, of divine life - he did so at baptism. Now it's up to us to exercise it. If we do, it will grow. And the more it grows, the more room God will have to do truly wonderful things in us and through us.

Sometimes our faith never gets beyond the mustard-seed stage because we have the wrong idea of what it really is. Faith involves believing in Christ and his goodness. But it's a kind of belief that also requires action.

The word "faith" is derived from the Latin word "fides" [FEE-days]. This is the same word at the root of the Latin motto used by the United States Marines: "Semper Fidelis" - always faithful. Faith always implies being faithful - it implies a commitment to another person, a trusting commitment. And that means sticking by that person's side.

For us, that person is Christ.  Faith in Christ means following Christ.

Picture a man on a sinking ship.  He may believe in a life-preserver. He may remember cases of people being saved because they were wearing a life-preserver when their ship went down. He may be a physicist, and understand the laws of hydro-dynamics that make the life-preserver work. He may understand perfectly how the Velcro straps function and where to attach them. But if this man doesn't actually put on the life-preserver and strap himself in - his faith is absolutely useless.

If we want to move mountains and to experience God's power doing wonders in our lives, we have to put what we believe into practice, more and moreday after day - "Semper Fidelis".

The Responsorial Psalm we heard today gives us one surefire way to activate the power of faith: "If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart."

Faith is practical.

If we believe in God's wisdomlove, and power, we will obey him.

We will follow where he leads.  And he is always leading us somewhere - always making his voice heard.

The most common way he does so is through our conscience. Our conscience is like an inner radio station that is always tuned to God's voice. But it's not the only station out there, and, unfortunately, it's not always the loudest. Sometimes we turn up the station of peer pressure and fashion really loud, or the station dedicated to self-indulgence, irresponsible pleasure, and other soothing but deadening sounds.

That's why the Psalmist tells us: "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts." We should decide ahead of time that whenever our conscience starts to ring, we will pay attention. And we should decide ahead of time that if we aren't sure what exactly our conscience is saying, but we know it's saying something, we will get some good advice from someone who knows Christ and his teaching before we act.

That's the only way God will be able to strengthen us to move mountains - the mountains of sin and sorrow that clutter the world.

That's the only way God will be able to guide us home from exile and give us the inner peace and prosperity that we long for.

If we have something on our conscience today, let's promise Christ that we will take care of it.

And if not, let's promise him - when we receive him today in Holy Communion - that we will pay special attention to his voice this week, and not foolishly harden our hearts.

God gave us our minds for a reason: so that we could come to know him better. Obviously, God exceeds our comprehension, yet our faith is not contrary to reason. So it’s important to study our faith, both for ourselves and, as St Peter told us, to be able to give a reason to others for the hope that is in us.

So I would suggest two books that can help us to learn more about what we believe as Catholics. Part of faith in God means that we trust his Church and accept her teachings. The first is Peter Kreeft’s book Fundamentals of the Faith. He goes through the teachings of the Catholic Church with clarity and humor and helps the reader to understand why the Church teaches what she teaches. The second is Matthew Kelly’s book Rediscover Catholicism. This book is an eye-opening exploration of the beauty of our Catholic faith, a call to let it change our lives, and a very practical guide to walking us through that process.

Now we prepare to receive Jesus himself in the Blessed Sacrament. We say, with the apostles and with all the saints down the arches of the years: “Lord, increase our faith.”



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