By Fr. Aubuchon
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the Holy Gospel this weekend from Luke 17 has Jesus using a powerful, vivid image regarding the supernatural gift of faith. When the Apostles asked Jesus to increase their faith, he said to them in response: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” I grew up working on my family farm and the farms of neighbors in the Hermann, Missouri area, which I think attributes to the fact that since my childhood, I have been captivated by this nature-based analogy for faith that Jesus uses in the Gospel of St. Luke.
I am similarly reminded about the gift of faith, as experienced by the Apostles in Jesus’ first and second appearances to them after His Resurrection from the tomb. Among other things, these first two appearances revolve around the doubts that St. Thomas struggled with in believing that Jesus had truly risen from the dead, even though St. Thomas had been with Jesus for the three years of His public ministry and heard Jesus mention His Passion, Death, and Resurrection several times.
In truth, it was no accident that he was not present when Jesus appeared to the Apostles the first time in the upper room after the Resurrection. It was absolutely intentional; our Blessed Lord always acts with complete intentionality. He did it for the sake of St. Thomas’ faith as well as your faith and mine. When his brother Apostles told him “We have seen the Lord,” St. Thomas declared, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and put my finger into the nail-marks and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” A week later, Jesus appeared to the Apostles in the Upper Room and St. Thomas was present this time, by God’s design, and Jesus lovingly deepened St. Thomas’ faith in Him when He said, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Then St. Thomas answered and said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus replied to him saying: “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” My dear brothers and sisters, you and I are in that second category.
Relating to this profound acclamation of faith made by St. Thomas, there is a beautiful, ancient tradition in the Sacred Liturgy that when the priest, acting in the person of Jesus Christ the High Priest, raises the Consecrated Host — which has become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, — the faithful proclaim in the depths of their heart the same truth proclaimed by St. Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” I pray this silently every time I elevate the Consecrated Host in my celebration of Holy Mass; you are welcome to do the same as a unified act of profound faith in Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist.
I remember an important experience in my life during high school of being deeply touched at Mass when I heard this proclamation of St. Thomas to Jesus, “My Lord and my God,” as it was uttered from the depths of his being. As if I was hearing these words of St. Thomas for the very first time, I too joined him in the utterance of those life-changing words. This experience enacted the desire for a renewal in my own faith in our Blessed Lord and His Church, which was my way of “resting on the heart of our Blessed Lord,” as St. John did at the Last Supper.
This moment when Jesus pierced my heart, I began to let God into my life in ways that I had not allowed before, into my doubts, fears and inadequacies; He began showing me, in a new way, what the gift of faith was all about and what my identity as a beloved son of the Father meant. This all lead me to a deep desire to share with others what God had revealed to me about His heart and His self-less love and to share the truth of the beauty of their identity as beloved children of the Father.
It was this desire that led me to consider my vocation, and particularly the Holy Priesthood, to sincerely open my heart to spiritual fatherhood of souls, walking with them in faith to Jesus’ most Sacred Heart, pierced as it was in a totally selfless gift of love for us, His children.
Like the Apostles, we are called to continue to grow in our faith, even if it is the size of a mustard seed, remembering what Jesus told us, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” Namely, with God, all things are possible; with God, you and I can move mountains. Will you say, “Yes,” to this invitation from Jesus, in union with St. Thomas, crying out together in faith, “My Lord and my God!?”