Reflection for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity.
”The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” From Luke 17:5-11, NRSV.
CHARLES III • D • G • REX • F • D • Latin inscription – meaning King Charles III, by the Grace of God, Defender of the Faith – on the coins to be issued throughout his reign.
In today’s Gospel, the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith and this comes during a time when everything he says and does is being scrutinised. The stories he tells are puzzling, so provocation results and the disciples seem perplexed after a warning to be on guard. When they ask for their faith to increase, Jesus suggests that even faith the size of a small mustard seed is sufficient – what they need is faith, not in themselves, but in a great God. After the chaotic effects of the Government’s fiscal policies on the economy this week, when there were already fears for the cost of living during the winter ahead, this is a time when faith in the future is needed but many are as perplexed today as those disciples then.
The Anglican faith in which he is deeply rooted was referred to by the new King in his address to the nation following his accession: “In that faith and the values it inspires, I have been brought up to cherish a sense of duty to others, and to hold in the greatest respect, the precious traditions, freedoms and responsibilities of our unique history and our system of parliamentary government.” As with every monarch since Pope Leo X conferred the title on Henry VIII, the coins throughout Charles’ reign will be imprinted with F.D. – the abbreviation for Fidei Defensor – which was given to Henry for his defence of Roman Catholicism before he broke with Rome in 1530. That began in an age of great turbulence and perhaps the lessons of history will provide food for thought in our own time of upheaval.
Then, as now, Jesus encouraged his followers to use the faith in God that they already had, reminding them that even a small amount of faith can work wonders. Whether we have faith in God or not, faith in its many forms is much in the news this weekend with the Observer‘s newspaper headline declaring Voters abandon Tories as faith in economic competence dives. It is clear that more uncertainty and turbulence lie ahead and that faithfulness and patience will be needed whatever happens, whether with a religious or secular faith. That‘s challenging us all and perhaps many will echo the sentiments of Mother Teresa: “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”
However, at the heart of the Christian faith is the One who has lived amongst humanity and experienced all that involves. Even Jesus knew agony of body, mind and spirit in the Garden of Gethsemane when, faced with the anguish of what lay ahead, his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44). It being night, this was not caused by heat but the cold sweat of fear and, in having a probable panic attack, Jesus has experienced what those who are now so fearful are also enduring. Later on, after the resurrection, what happened was seen differently as a new way of life and being emerged and so it may be for us if we find the faith to trust that it will. God is at work amidst all the consternation being provoked and faith in him will not fail, whatever the lessons of history and today show us about humanity – though there may be difficulties sourcing even mustard seeds as the challenges with the supply chain continue!
With my prayers; pob bendith,