This Sunday’s gospel reflection is about faith and duty. The book of Hebrews defines faith as assurance in what we hope for, and confidence in things we do not see. In chapter 11 of the same book, we see many examples of people who acted in faith and in obedience to God. By faith, Noah built an ark in preparation for the impending flood at a time when there were no indications that the said flood was coming. By faith, Abraham left his home country and moved to the promised land which was completely unknown to him. By faith, Sarah, who was past the age of childbearing, bore a child, and so with Abraham became the ancestors of people as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. By faith, Moses led the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt, passing through dry land in the middle of the Red Sea. Other heroes of faith conquered kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of flames, escaped the sword, turned weakness into strength, routed foreign armies, and received their dead back to life. Some were imprisoned, chained, tortured, and put to death, but refused to renounce God, while others lived in poverty, persecution, and mistreatment, yet remained faithful. Verse 6 of the chapter says, “ And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

In three stories of healing, we hear Jesus telling the sick, “Your faith has made you well.” He said this to a blind man (Mark 10:46-52), to ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19), and to a woman with an issue of blood (Matthew 9:20-22). On the other hand, there were stories of Jesus rebuking people for their lack of faith. When the disciples went into panic as they were caught by a storm on the lake, Jesus asked them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” In Nazareth, he did not perform many miracles because of his townmates’ unbelief (Matthew 13:58), and after his resurrection he upbraided his apostles for their lack of faith and stubbornness, for they did not believe those who saw him after he had risen (Mark 16:14).

In this Sunday’s gospel (Luke 17:5-10), we hear the disciples saying, “Lord, increase our faith,” and Jesus replying, “ If you had 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.” Uprooting a big tree is difficult, and planting it in the sea is impossible. But in faith, the difficult and the impossible can be done. In Jeremiah 32:27, God said, “See, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too hard for me”? and in Mark 9:23, Jesus said, “All things can be done for the one who believes.”

God wants us to have faith in him. Faith is powerful, even with the size of a very small seed. Why? Because in the final analysis, it is not from us that the power to do the difficult and the impossible comes out. Sometimes, God only chooses to work through us in faith, but in reality, it is still him who works.

Just like the servants in the gospel, God doesn’t become indebted to us when we perform our responsibilities. He is not under obligation to repay us for doing the things he expected of us, although in his unfailing love and goodness, he delights to reward us according to what we have done (Psalm 62:11-12). God owns everything (Psalm 24:1), and we do not have anything that we did not receive from him (1 Corinthians 4:7). “ Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). Our duty is to have faith in God, believing that he will always work for the good of those who love and serve him, and who have been called according to his purpose (Galatians 8:28).