27th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Oct 2, 2022



There was a time when scientists thought the atom was the smallest particle of matter.   But then they discovered protons, neutrons and electrons, that made up atoms.   And these subatomic particles weren’t the smallest particles either.   There were even more subatomic particles that were discovered, such as up and down quarks that were far smaller than protons and neutrons.   In addition to quarks, it was postulated that there existed a subatomic particle that would be about one-hundredth the size of a proton.”  It was called the Higgs Boson, or the God particle.  It was empirically discovered in 2012 by using the Large Hadron Collider in Cern, Switzerland.   The discovery of the Higgs Boson was a monumental achievement in physics because it was theorized, that this particle is “what gave other subatomic particles their mass.”   With its discovery,  physicists could now understand “how particles that make up you and me and the billions of galaxies in the universe, could exist.”  Keep this in mind when I tell you today’s joke.  Here goes….

            “A Higgs boson walks into a church, and the priest says, ‘I’m sorry we don’t allow Higgs bosons to worship in our church.’ 


The Higgs Boson protests by saying, ‘But without me, you can’t have mass.'” 

(from businessinsider.com, March 2015)


            Yes, sometimes the smaller a particular thing is, the more radically it can affect us in ways that we’re not even aware.    Sometimes, too, if we don’t have the small parts of our lives in order, they can affect everything else in our lives, in ways, that, we’d perhaps like to avoid. 

            The same is true of many other things.  Take the example of extra virgin olive oil.  Since it’s not well regulated, some brands on the market often dilute the extra virgin olive oil with cheaper oils, but sell it as one hundred percent genuine extra virgin olive oil, even though the cheaper oils with their deleterious side-effects on our health have been dishonestly added.   To get genuine 100% extra virgin olive oil means doing some testing and research as to the time the olives were pressed, and where it was cultivated, in order to determine if the oil truly contains monounsaturated fats or is mixed with polyunsaturated ones. 

 Jesus applies the same sort of reasoning to faith when he asserts in today’s gospel, “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.’ ”  As you can see from our liturgical display in front of the altar today, mustard seeds are very small, so small, in fact, that they can easily fall between our fingers, if we try to cup a bunch of them into our hands.   It’s that smallness of the mustard seed that Jesus highlights, in order to convey the power which genuine faith has to transform, not only our own personal lives, but our churches, our communities, our world, and everything that the higgs bosons give mass to, in our universe! 

To more fully grasp what Jesus means by this power verse, we have to go back to a few verses that were not proclaimed in today’s gospel to find out what Jesus was talking about, just before this statement about mustard seeds in Luke’s gospel.  

In the part of Luke’s gospel preceding today’s proclamation, Jesus is talking about the commitment value, in a disciple’s life, of being the bearer of forgiveness to those who are truly contrite when he asserts, quite boldly, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.  If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times, comes back to you, and says, “I repent;’ forgive him.”  (Luke 17: 3b-4)    Hearing this, Jesus’ disciples reply by asking Jesus to increase their faith, thinking that more would be needed to act in the manner Jesus is commanding.    What they were really asking for, was the kind of faith that would be necessary to embrace such a radical concept of forgiveness and to live it out superabundantly.  I think many of us would agree that it’s hard enough to forgive someone just once, much less repeatedly, as Jesus counsels. 


In Jesus’ mind though,  if a disciple’s faith is genuine, if it’s truly based on a full reliance on the grace of God and a full surrender to God’s plan for one’s life, then just a mustard seed quantity of faith can do the impossible; it can overcome insurmountable odds.  It can perform the miraculous, because it relies, not on human abilities or human evaluations of contrition, but on God’s ability to act in us, to speak through us, to engage with others as conduits of God’s grace, love and mercy in a sinful and broken world. 

To dramatically get his point across about the miraculous power of genuine faith to change us from the inside out, Jesus uses the image of a mulberry tree being uprooted and planted in the sea, at a disciple’s faithful command.  That would indeed be a sight to behold, for mulberry trees are fast growing trees that can reach a height of between 10 to 20 meters.  And so, for Jesus to make this assertion, he’s saying that for something that would be hard for a strong man with a determined mind to do, the same laborious action would be easy for a man or woman of genuine faith to do, even if the amount of that faith were small.    

And to drive this point home, Jesus makes it non-optional.   To be a disciple of his means to have genuine faith, and thereby, to accept, as a duty, to do whatever God may ask of us, even if it may seem arduous, promises no reward, or seems unfair.    Using the example of a servant,  Jesus asserts that, even if the job is a tough one— like ploughing fields all day or tending sheep all day, and then having to come in and serve dinner to their master before eating themselves, that’s the cost of being a faithful servant.  The servant shouldn’t expect adulation or praise for doing his/her job.   The servant shouldn’t expect to be able to create his/her job description either, or to refuse work that they agreed they would perform.  

As servants of Christ, our duty is to live our faith genuinely, without regard to the cost to our personal comforts or sense of justice!  

As Christians, such faith enables us to love without being loved in return.   As Christians such faith emboldens us to give God all the glory, honor and praise when we act in His name.   As Christians such faith allows us to witness to others that salvation has come and all are welcome to accept that free gift from God.

Our second reading today from Paul’s second letter to Timothy gives us further characteristics of a genuine faith life.   Such a life is evidenced by a spirit of power, love and self-discipline.  Such a life of witness is marked by courage in confronting suffering or difficult situations.   Such a life of faith is empowered by the gift of the Holy Spirit living inside of us since the day of our baptism, when we were entrusted with acting as a priest, a prophet and a king as signs of our commitment to Christ and our faith in him. 

If faith isn’t genuine, it becomes apparent to all.  When our lives are more about our own wishes, comforts, and desires rather than the wishes and desires of God, there’s a problem with our faith.  When we start to compare ourselves with others, with the aim of putting another down and lifting ourselves up, there’s a problem with our faith.  When we’re constantly being self-righteous and judging everyone else as less holy than ourselves, then there’s a problem with our faith.     When we’re timid in confronting sinful situations and look the other way when we ourselves need to repent and to rely on the mercy of God, then there’s a problem with our faith.   

As we can deduct from these examples, genuine faith requires a lot from us.   It requires a steadfastness and consistency that only can be obtained by a constant reliance of God’s mercy, love, and grace.   It requires a daily, heartfelt commitment to prayer and an immersion in the sacred scriptures that puts us into direct contact with God’s message and purpose of our existence. The great thing is that, if we just have a little faith, that’s all we need to become all that God asks of us to be, and to do all that God asks of us in our vocational journey.    



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