We have a Filipino saying which goes, “Wala ka ngang ginawang masama, wala ka rin namang kabutihang nagawa”. It describes an attitude of “mediocrity”. Mediocre is what we call a thing that is lacking exceptional quality or ability. “Lukewarm” is the term used by the Book of Revelation: neither hot nor cold.
Perhaps, the apostles felt that their faith has become lukewarm, or that they have become mediocre already in following the Lord. That’s why they asked Him, “Lord, increase our faith”. The Lord replied, “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”. Do you know the size of a mustard seed? Just look at a point on the end of a pencil. That’s about the size of a mustard seed. A lukewarm and mediocre faith is even smaller than that.
How do we know that our faith is lukewarm and mediocre? St. Josemaría Escrivá has enumerated some symptoms. He said: “You are lukewarm if you carry out lazily and reluctantly those things that have to do with our Lord; if deliberately or ‘shrewdly’ you look for some way of cutting down your duties; if you think only of yourself and of your comfort; if your conversations are idle and vain; if you do not abhor venial sins; if you act from human motives”. Maybe, it is good to examine ourselves today: Is my faith lukewarm? Pope Francis once sent a message in Twitter: “Do not be content to live a mediocre Christian life: walk with determination along the path of holiness”. In the Book of Revelation, God will vomit the lukewarm out of His mouth.
Lukewarm faith manifests also in constant complaining about the discomfort in life. In the First Reading, we heard Habakkuk complaining about the delay in God’s intervention to set things right in the world. “Yahweh, how long will I cry for help while you pay no attention to me? I denounce the oppression and you do not save. Why do you make me see injustice?” Oftentimes, when we encounter difficulties, injustices, sufferings, and discomfort in life, it is easier to complain than to abandon ourselves in God’s hands. Pope Francis also twitted: “Even in the midst of trials and tribulations, the Christian is always joyous, never sad. A Christian, who constantly complains, on the other hand, fails to be a good Christian”.
A mediocre Christian is like that servant in the Gospel who has done no more than what is expected of him. “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do”. It may be true that we never complain when faced with difficulties. But it is also true that we never do more than what is expected of us. We don’t put extraordinary effort in doing our ordinary tasks. The “Little Way” of St. Therese of the Child Jesus consists in this: “doing ordinary tasks with extraordinary love”. But only those whose faith is like the size of a mustard seed can transform their ordinary tasks into extraordinary acts of love. Faith can move mountains.
That is why we need to heed the call of St. Paul to Timothy in the Second Reading. He said, “I invite you to fan into a flame the gift of God you received”. Your faith, my dear friends, is a precious gift from God. But like any gift, it will die and fade away if it is not nurtured, if it is not “fanned into a flame”. How do you cultivate your faith? How often do you pray every day? How frequent do you receive the Sacrament of Penance (Confession)? How often do you read and meditate the Bible? Do you consult and study the Catechism of the Catholic Church? How do you put into practice Christian charity? Do you regularly help the needy? Do you perform your work well? Through prayer, charitable acts, doctrinal formation and doing apostolate, we slowly but surely “fan into a flame” the gift of God, our faith.
What are some symptoms of an increased faith? Your faith is deep if you are not easily discouraged by failures in life. Instead, you look at failures as opportunities. As Henry Ford says, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently”. You have an increased faith if you put the same diligence in doing small and great tasks, because, for you, there is no difference between small or big tasks. The difference is in the little or more love in doing them. Lastly, your faith is increased if, despite your weaknesses, you continue to move on, knowing that God can make use of your defects as “fertilizers” to your holiness.
Brothers and sisters, I know, you and I, we don’t want to be lukewarm in our faith, in our spiritual life. We don’t want to be like the unprofitable servants. We want to do our ordinary tasks with extraordinary love. But we are also confronted with our weaknesses. Hence, we hear the advice that St. Josemaría gave to his spiritual children. “Fight against that weakness which makes you lazy and careless in your spiritual life. Remember that it might well be the beginning of lukewarmness”.
With the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, like the apostles in the Gospel, we also pray to Jesus, “Lord, increase our faith”. Amen.