The Mustard Seed and Our Sense of Inadequacy

“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.”Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, `Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, `We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'” -Luke 17:5-10

Sometimes I feel like I cannot do a good job unless everything is perfect. Unfortunately, in the real world, there is no such thing as the perfect situation. There are no moments in our lives where we can feel secure enough to know that nothing will go wrong. Something will always go wrong eventually. Faith is not an escape from reality: it is facing reality. It is knowing that what we do does not depend on the situation but on the One who transcends all situations and circumstances. Faith demands that we take a risk and trust the One who determines what is real in this world.

Faith is recognizing that we do not have what it takes to live in this world; I mean truly live in this world. Only Jesus truly lived life to the fullest in this world. He deliberately lived in an imperfect world to show us that abundant life was a living possibility. We don’t need a perfect world to live perfect lives. We just need faith and our faith only has to be the size of a mustard seed.

Our life here is far from perfect. Everyday we are confronted with a reality that seems to be overwhelming. I have encountered men and women who are in their thirties whom I met when they were in their early teens. They are still smoking crack in the streets. We meet new children coming to the streets. We are discovering that many of these children have no where to go except the streets. I just rented an apartment and downstairs where we live there is a group of homeless people who have been sleeping in the streets for so long that our neighbors consider them as permanent fixture in the neighborhood.  It is quite sad. Many of the missionaries have doubts about their capabilities. They doubt whether they have the resources to do anything significant. Most of us feel inadequate on a deeper level as well. We feel that we might not have what it takes to be God’s servants. We might not be worthy at all to serve in the red light district. Maybe we are right but it is okay.

The most comforting part of the gospel passage above is the second part. It seems strange that the harshest part of the gospel text is the most comforting. We are not the Master. We are just His servants. It is not our role to figure out whether we are adequate to complete the task before us. We don’t have what it takes to bring anything to completion. The Master does it. We are just His servants. Servants don’t wait for the perfect condition to serve but they just serve. We serve a Master whose essence is Love. Our joy lies in serving this loving Master. He is the one who takes our mustard seed faith and transforms it into something beautiful. We just have to remember that servants just serve the Master. We have what it takes to serve Him because He has given it to us. This is really comforting. It does not matter if we feel inadequate. It only matters that we serve Him despite our inadequacy. This is our identity and our joy.

How does this translate to our lives here? Well, yesterday we went to the streets without any games and activity material. One of the children asked us what we brought with us for fun and before we could say anything, Jonas, one of the younger boys came to our defense and said that we just brought love and that was enough.

We just have to serve our Master with what He has given us.



3 thoughts on “The Mustard Seed and Our Sense of Inadequacy

  1. Yes–faith is knowing we are inadequate but God is all-sufficient and has everything in the palm of His hand. We’re not called to have all the answers, but simply faithfully serve the One who does. Thanks for this post, Fr. Stephen.

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