Mass for Sunday 6 October 2013
MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART AT SAINT PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, MELBOURNE, ON SUNDAY, 6TH OCTOBER 2013 AT 11.00 A.M.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The opening verses of today’s Gospel tell us that faith is the greatest force in the world. The Eastern custom was to use language in the most vivid possible way and this saying in the Bible means that even what looked completely impossible became possible if approached with faith.
Today we remember many scientific marvels, surgical operations, the feats of endurance, which have been achieved, that less than fifty years ago would have been considered impossible. If we approach a thing saying it cannot be done, it will not. If we approach it saying it must be done, the chances are that it will. But we do not approach things on our own.
The petition, “Increase our faith”, is made by all the disciples of Jesus in today’s Gospel, to be made daily by all of us. Faith is personally adhering to God, who reveals himself. Our intellect and will say yes to the self-revelation God has made through his deeds and words. To believe has a two-fold reference; to the person and to the truth, to the truth by trust in the person who bears witness to us. It is the supernatural gift from God in order to believe we need the interior help of the Holy Spirit. It is a human, conscious and free act corresponding to our dignity as human persons, but it is also an act of the Church.
The Church’s faith goes before, stirs up, supports and nourishes our faith. The Church is the Mother of all believers. Saint Cyprian said, “No one can have God as Father, who does not have the Church as Mother.” Or, as Paul VI said, “We believe all that which is contained in the word of God written or handed down and which the Church proposes for belief as divinely revealed.” Faith is necessary for salvation. The Lord himself affirms, “He who believes and is baptised will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16.16) Or, as Saint Thomas puts it, “Faith is a foretaste of the knowledge that will make us blessed in the life to come.” (Saint Thomas Aquinas, Comp.Theol. 1, 2).
So when we pray, “Lord, increase our faith,” we surrender to God in all things, at all times and all places. We know. As Madeleine L’Engle said, “Faith, like prayer, is a gift – a gift of knowing that the light shines in the darkness, of knowing that the light cannot be put out, no matter how diligently the temptress tries to snuff it. The gift of faith alters our perception of reality and the manner in which we live and love and pray and die.” (And It Was Good, Reflections on the Beginning, Harold Shaw, Chicago, 1983)
Lech Walesa of Poland has made the claim that faith is the sole meaning of his life. The prophet, Habakkuk, clamoured for God’s attention and challenges us to be brazen in our efforts to discern the Lord’s purposes in our lives. Evelyn Underhill said that faith is “consecration in overalls” because we steadily accept and perform the common duties and immediate tasks, because these are seen as the will of God for the believer. She even says in rather amusing terms, “Faith means being the sort of cat who can be left alone with the canary and the sort of dog who follows hungry and thirsty, but tail up to the very end of the day.” Consecration in overalls means making faith real in thought, word and deed.
This is the challenge Jesus holds out today and every day of our lives. It may be possible to satisfy the claims of the law, but every lover knows that nothing can ever satisfy the claims of love. Faith in God leads to love in imitation of the limitless love he shows in the Scriptures. “The Word of the Lord stands forever. It is the Word given to you, the Good News.” (1 Peter 1.25)
Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.