Sunday Reflection with Father Terry Tastard - 3 October 2010

Holy Trinity Church, Brook Green

Holy Trinity Church, Brook Green

When the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith (Luke 17.5) they speak for us all.  Everybody feels that they do not have enough faith.  I have great sympathy with the father of the epileptic child who, asked by Jesus if he believed in him, cried out:  ‘I do believe.  Help me to overcome my unbelief’ (Mark 9.24).  We are people of faith, but often we are also people of questioning, of doubts and uncertainties.  But let us remember this.  Faith does not require the absence of doubt.  Faith is shown in commitment, in the ability to give as generously as we can to God.  Doubts come and go, but faith is the ability to set our course and stick to it.  Faith is not just a religious thing.  Many couples have entered marriage as an act of faith.  Young people set out on a course of studies in an act of faith.  Even in the hard world of commercial reality, there sometimes needs to be an act of faith, a launching forth without any guarantee of success.         

At first glance Jesus’s reply to the disciples sounds rather discouraging, almost like a rebuke.  Jesus’s words about the servants can also sound like a criticism:  If things go well, you are just doing your duty, Jesus tells them (17.7-10).  Well, it certainly is a robust call to do our duty, each and every one of us.  But in context, it is more like an encouragement, because Jesus goes on to warn them of hardships and persecutions.  It is those who persevere who will be saved.  For those who continue in faith, there will be great possibilities.  And doing your duty is, after all, a sign of faith.

Within these words of Jesus there is promise and an encouragement.  Be people of faith, Jesus tells them, and through God you will achieve great things, as astonishing as a tree uprooting itself and planting itself in the sea.  Just as no one could envisage that, so it will be impossible to describe the great things that faith will achieve – faith maintained in the face of interior questionings and external pressures to give up.  If Jesus had told them that they would be the foundations of the church and that it would be found in every country of the world, it would have been incomprehensible to them.  But that is what came about, and we here today are the proof if it.  A small band of disciples around Jesus has become a spiritual presence in every corner of the earth and has survived scepticism and persecution.  Compared with that, wandering trees sound like child’s play.  Faith creates new and sometimes startling possibilities.  Faith is creative.  God calls us to be a people of faith and see where it leads us.

The message of our first reading from Habakkuk is a similar call to faithfulness.  It was composed around 600 BC when the Babylonian armies of Nebuchadnezzar were taking control of Judah and bending it to pagan will. Under this pressure, society is cracking, and the prophet Habakkuk sounds like someone of our own time when he sees around him violence, corruption, and bitter divisions.  The reply of God is to wait.  God’s will cannot be frustrated.  There will be a fulfilment at a time and in a way of God’s own choosing.  Those whose souls lack spiritual nourishment will lose heart.  By contrast those who persevere in faith will find that God gives them abundant life (2.4-5).

Fr Terry is Parish Priest at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Brook Green, west London.   His latest book:  Ronald Knox and English Catholicism is published by Gracewing at £12.99 and is available on Amazon, on ICN's front page. To read Sr Gemma Simmonds' review on ICN see:

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