September 2019


‘"f you have faith as small as a mustard seed … nothing will be impossible for you.’"Matthew 17.20 (NIV)


The context of this saying in Matthew is the four substantial chapters (14-17) which, in broad terms, concern belief and unbelief. The climax comes in chapter 17 where he records the events of the Transfiguration and what follows. While Jesus and his three companions have been away on the mountain, the remaining disciples have struggled to heal an epileptic boy and support his father.  When Jesus returns, the father appeals to Jesus who drives out the demon and so heals the boy. Jesus then rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith.

Jesus goes on to say to the disciples: "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."   What Jesus is doing is using a phrase that his listeners will know well – to uproot a mountain was to remove difficulties from your life. There is an echo of it in 1 Corinthians 13.2:  "... if I have faith that can move mountains …’’

Jesus is not just exaggerating his point, but rather making certain that everyone listening realises the importance of ‘faith’.  Faith enables – lack of faith does the opposite.

It is not the amount of faith that brings the impossible within reach, not intellectual assent, not finding answers to questions, but the power of God and, in this case, the power of Jesus in his healing ministry.  This trust and hope in God in Christ is the basis of the way that God acts in the world.

So, what of us in our contemplative prayer? We listen, we receive, we absorb what Jesus has to say in the depths of our own lives allowing him to speak to us, to lift the burdens from our shoulders and give us an opportunity and a way to surrender to him and rely on him for everything. This is ‘faith’.  We may feel that our faith is insignificant but, however small, it will enable us to meet the challenges and difficulties that we all of us face in our lives, day to day.