I want to remind you today that when we are present at Mass, even if we personally get nothing out of it, our very presence gives support and strength to everyone else. Not only does it give support to people here, but without our knowing it, it gives support and strength to people we know – friends, family – who are not here. Our faith is more powerful than we realise! Of course, often our faith may feel tiny in the face of so many difficulties and criticisms. Like the apostles in our Gospel today, (Luke 17:5-19) we may well feel like saying to God “Increase my faith.” But Jesus tells us firmly that even faith as tiny as a seed that we can hardly see, can actually be much more powerful than we can ever imagine. This is why I find it so sad when people are not at Mass, because they do not realise how much good they can do just by being present.
“Well!” I hear you say, “It would help if just sometimes I actually saw something happen, some real answers to my prayers, to my presence at Mass!” And again we have an answer, this time from our 1st Reading (Habakkuk 2:2-4) “If it comes slowly, wait, for come it will, without fail.” Yes, we want the sort of results that we get from our cars or computers. Press the right button, turn the right switch, and off we go. But God is not a like a machine, God is more like his Creation We cannot see plants growing, but they grow. We cannot feel the earth spinning nor moving round the sun, but it does.
The message today is clear therefore. In everything we do we should not neglect the little things that can be so powerful without us realising. Most of you know my well-worn examples :- Say Hello to the person at the check-out and you may actually change his or her day. Be friendly on the phone to the person in the Call Centre you have waited 10 minutes to talk to, and the result may be more amazing than you will ever know. A few words, a kind action, a hand shake, a promise to pray, to light a candle, all these things and many others actually make a difference to other people.
It’s so easy to think everything has to be big to be effective. Think of St Therese of Lisieux whose day we celebrated last week. There she was a sickly young nun living in seclusion wondering what she could do for God. Her Superior suggested that she spend the time writing her story down for her fellow sisters, so she did. She speaks movingly of how she searched hard for what God wanted her to DO. She was reading St Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians and saw in Chapter 12 a number of different JOBS in the Church – such as apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists etc. But she couldn’t see herself in any of these. And then reading on to Chapter 13 she found her answer, as she writes “St Paul goes on to explain that all the gifts of heaven, even the most perfect of them, without love are nothing at all.” This then was to be her task “To be nothing else but love, deep down in the heart of Mother Church.” Soon after she wrote this in her 20’s she died, her little work of love, and her story, seem to have died with her. But then her story was published, and in an amazing way, people all over the world clamoured for her book and found, in simple words like these, inspiration for their own lives. A tiny insignificant young woman changed the lives of thousands!
Pope Francis has been saying lots of good things recently. I put one at the end of our Parish Monthly Newletter “If a Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing.” The Pope was also challenged by a non-Catholic journalist last week who was pointing out that Catholicism may have 1 Billion members but that is a small minority of the total population of the world, and that many of those billion are not really practising. The Pope replied “We always have been (a minority) but the issue today is not that. Personally I think that being a minority is actually a strength.” And the he went on to refer to the Biblical passages where we are described as the leaven – the yeast – in a lump of dough. Without the tiny amount of yeast mixed in, the bread will never rise.
So, small things matter, Small things that we do or say. Small actions like coming to Mass. even if our faith is weak, or we find it hard to concentrate, and might prefer to be doing something else. Small things affect others in ways that we will never know. So remember, never to say that you get nothing out of coming to Mass, for first of all, your very presence helps others, and secondly their presence, whether you realise it or not, actually helps you. We are not islands, we are all part of one another. What we do, little as we are, with our tiny struggling faith, actually makes a difference!