The gospel today has Jesus saying, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you?” (Mt 17:17). He’s addressing the disciples who were not able to drive out a demon from a boy. Jesus’ exasperation brings a Mona Lisa smile to my face. Why? The apostles are so human and Jesus, as their Rabbi and teacher, has to help them focus, again. How many times do I make the same mistakes, can’t get a project done, forget to pick something (or someone) up? When I honestly look back to review the day or reflect on my process, or lack thereof, I tend to notice a pattern and one I hate to admit as it does happen frequently; I have usually forgotten to pray.
I have neglected to put my faith in my Lord and Savior. I did not call on Him when I began whatever task and intentionally ask for His will and blessing. When I skip that step, to begin the process with His intentions at the forefront of my thoughts, I seem to have many false starts. My focus is so scattered and my personal agenda is so prevalent that even my best intentions make the project a huge mess as I continue to fumble with my actions and words. I have to make myself stop, take a breath and call on the Lord to focus my next step. I have a very good friend who will actually call me out on this, asking me to stop and breathe before I continue as she had noticed my harried (or over-caffeinated) frenzied self.
I feel the same frustration that the apostles felt in not being able to accomplish the tasks that Jesus so easily seems to do. Jesus points out the disciples’ “little faith” and shares the parable of the mustard seed. St. Teresa of Calcutta had that kind of faith, as did St. Francis of Assisi. We celebrate today St. Clare of Assisi whose faith must have been bigger than a mustard seed. At the age of 18 in 1212, Clare fled her home in the middle of the night to escape an arranged marriage. Fleeing to the Portiuncula, the little chapel of St Mary of the Angels in Assisi, she asked Brother Francis to accept her into his order of ‘little’ brothers; Francis did so and cut off her hair (making her undesirable for marriage) much to her father, uncles and brothers’ chagrin. Women religious of the middle ages were cloistered. Clare wished the women following Francis’ example would be able to go out into the world to serve the poor. She faithfully pursued approval for her vision and rule for women which was granted by Pope Innocent IV, just 3 days before her death in 1253, 41 years later.
Living alongside the disciples and teaching them must have at times been frustrating for Jesus. There were moments when the apostles seemed to get it and to be following God’s way in faith.
But today’s Gospel shows us that there were times when Jesus became frustrated with their lack of focus. Through their inconsistency, the disciples make the gift of Jesus so much more profound.
Jesus’ absolute commitment to faith and connection to God changes lives in ways which the 12 seem incapable. Jesus’ power is very evident, and even in a moment of frustration, he does not waver. He continues his ministry to heal, preach and teach the apostles and all of his followers. Let us pray for faith rooted as mustard seeds so we too, can grow strong and flourish in our ministries and prayer life.
Beth Price is a Secular Franciscan (OFS) and spiritual director who has worked in several parish ministry roles during the last 20 years. She is a proud mother of 3 adult children. Beth currently works at Diocesan. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.