This story happened in my previous parish. Prior to my mum’s first visit to Scotland we decided to turn a small storeroom into a spare bedroom. When the place had been ready a friend of mine, who was in charge of that job, measured the room in order to buy some bits of furniture; among them the most crucially important two beds, as my mum was to come with her companion. It seemed that the beds could have been put along the opposite longer walls, leaving enough space between them for a bedside table and free access to the beds. We bought two flat-packed beds and in the evening I started to assemble them. When the first was ready I became a bit worried. Then I assembled the second one and my apprehension got confirmed: the room was too narrow to accommodate two beds alongside. I instantly knew what had happened: my friend measured the room in imperial units, but the beds’ size in the shop was metric. There was only one solution to that mishap: my bedroom became a spare one, and I moved to the new one. And, you know what? I loved that new bedroom: it was small and very cosy. I spent there a lot of time.
Most of us can experience this kind of commotion when we travel to the continental Europe. Buying anything that has to be measured can be a nightmare: drinks, food, clothes and so on. You have to convert kilograms to pounds, millilitres to pints, and pounds to euros or other local currency. Nightmare! Sometimes we come across things that are hard to measure, or we don’t know how to measure them. In today’s gospel, when the Apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith, he replies: ‘Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree: Be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey you.’ Very useful ability to tender the garden, but what does Jesus actually mean by that? What units should we use to measure our faith? It’s not a purely theoretical problem, as – according to the New Testament – faith is required and essential. So, how do you measure the strength of your faith?
Before we try to find answer to that question I’d like you to consider what faith itself is? In general terms it’s a belief that external signs/words/impressions/statements are consistent with internal attitudes/motives they represent. When we recite the Creed at Mass ‘I believe in one God…’ and so on, we declare our belief that those theological statements represent truly the essence of our religious faith. We can say that we believe in God’s existence and acts. It’s a structured dimension of faith. There’s another one, much more personal and therefore more appealing: I believe God! Not his existence – that’s an obvious presumption – but that he loves me and wants my best. This is the dimension of faith that we care about, because it affects – or disaffects – our lives. Sometimes people pray for something and don’t get it; they consider their prayer was unsuccessful because their faith had been too weak. I think that was the main reason why the Apostles ask Jesus in today’s gospel: ‘Increase our faith.’
There is one common misconception that God always fulfils my wishes if I my faith is strong enough. As parents you know that sometimes you children ask for something stupid, or dangerous. Regardless their tantrums you don’t grant their wishes for obvious reasons. Sometimes you try to explain your negative decision, but that doesn’t always work. So sometimes you simply must exercise your authority. It’s a bit similar with God the Father. I must believe that God knows better, and regardless of the power of my faith sometimes He simply doesn’t grant my wishes out of His love for me. Effectively it means you don’t need to measure your faith if it’s the size of a mustard seed. Just plant it in your heart and care of it to grow.