8 November 2005: Tuesday of the 32nd Week of the Year
Luke 17, 5-10: Parable of the Mustard Seed
The point of the Gospel is simple: Faith is the greatest force in the world. We should remember that in the East, they use vivid language, and often, exaggerated to prove the point. We, Filipinos, are no different from them: “Alam mo, ang ganda ng sine. Mamamatay ka sa iyak.” We actually will not die crying, but what we would like to say is that the movie is a real tearjerker. The Gospel tells us that even those things that look impossible before becomes possible, if it is approached by faith.
One of the greatest stories in the Old Testament is the story of Joseph, the son of Jacob, the one who became the Prime Minister of Egypt at the time of famine. He was mistreated by his family. He was falsely accused by the wife of Potiphar. He was sent to prison, and when his companion found favor with the Pharaoh, he was forgotten and abandoned for two more years. The story of Joseph resonates with all of us. Wives without husbands, husbands without wives, children without parents, parents without children, men and women without jobs, people without friends, former friends who are not on speaking terms, former priests and officials who were not anymore in ministry or office, etc. Anyone who was mistreated, falsely accused, forgotten and abandoned would feel that God has indeed treated him unjustly. And such situation challenges our faith.
Mistreatment comes in many forms. First, is undeserved mistreatment from family. It is possible for children to mistreat parents just as readily as parents can mistreat children and even grown children. I know of a fine young man whose dad had not spoken to him for six years, even since the son did not pursue a medical degree as his father, but rather entered the seminary to serve the Church. When he was ordained, his father was not there. After the ordination ceremony, when everyone was so happy for him, he took some time off and went to a small chapel and wept. Abusive mistreatment within the family takes many forms and leaves many scars.
Second, the unexpected restriction of circumstance. This happens when you are suddenly confined, either emotionally or physically. You either can’t get beyond your own emotions or your physical circumstances. A sudden traumatic disease such as cancer, can leave us feeling terribly alone. The scars from an abusive and painful past can result in a long prison-like years of pain as the person struggles to recover. I know of a person whose boyfriend for five years left her before the day of her marriage. Ten years have past, but she cannot free herself from the trauma. She is now very much afraid to enter into another relationship. These unexpected restrictions keep people from flying free and from enjoying life.
Third, untrue accusations. This is not new to many of us. Whatever we do, there are people who begin to say false things about us. The trouble is that those false words are heard by people who don’t know any better and they believe them. We cannot go around telling everyone about the truth to correct and set the record straight. We will either be accused of being defensive, and being guilty.
Fourth, unfair abandonment. In many ways, this is the most painful of all. I know many women who have given their all to their partners in life. They have accompanied their boyfriends through years of struggle in their studies, helped them find work, encourage them from frustrations, committed themselves in marriage, and bore them children. And suddenly, their partners left them. Some have loaned money to a friend, and when the payback is needed, he or she is nowhere to be found.
Faith that moves mountains is somehow farfetched. But you see, when our faith is challenged we have two choices: We can become disillusioned and embittered, or we can use that difficulty as a platform for putting our hope and trust in the living God. All of the situations mentioned are circumstances that we consider impossible to correct, impossible to remedy. You see the cause of disillusionment and its cure can be expressed in almost the same simple words.
The cause of disillusionment is putting one’s complete hope and trust in people. We have made this person who has abandoned us --- the child, wife, the husband, the business partner, the friend who has left us alone --- as the center of our lives, when the person become God. Your complete hope rested in them and when the feet of clay crumbles, total disillusionment sets in.
The cure is thus: Putting our complete hope and trust in the living God. In other words, to have faith in God alone. When we do that, the simplest message from God calm our spirits.
A friend of mine underwent such abandonment. It was in one simple retreat that he had to face the hurting truth about his life, and began to read the bible, and appreciate 15-minute prayers. Now, he has recovered from his hurt. A few nights ago, he told me that he found someone whom he will soon marry. The impossible has become possible for him. Faith indeed can overhaul our lives, like making a mountain move, allowing a 360-degree turn and making our lives better. And by the way, the priest in my first story: he finally got the courage to talk to his father sincerely. Today, his father comes to attend his masses.