Friday in the Eighth Week of Ordinary Time

“Whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea … and believes, it shall be done.” Really? This saying of Jesus used to bother me because in two thousand years has anyone’s faith ever moved a mountain? Are we all lacking in faith?  Matthew chapter 17 says that even if our faith is the size of a mustard seed it will be able to move a mountain.  Is our faith not even the size of a tiny mustard seed?  I find that discouraging.

But wait a minute, such a literal understanding of Jesus’ teaching completely misinterprets it. The teachings of Jesus are full of symbolism and figures of speech that should not be taken literally any more than when we say that a person was born with a silver spoon in his or her mouth.  It’s a figure of speech meaning one was born into a wealthy family.  It’s the same as when we say a certain boxer has a glass jaw.  That’s what my dad said one time when I was watching a boxing match with him.  I replied, “Why do they let him fight if he has a glass jaw?” He laughed and said, “It means he’s vulnerable, easy to knock out.”

So, it is with this teaching of Jesus on moving mountains.  He means that faith even as small as a mustard seed can do great things far beyond its littleness.  We see it in the short little prayer of the good thief whose sins, no matter how enormous, were thrown into the depths of the sea, into oblivion, when he asked to be remembered in Jesus’ Kingdom. 

Now, I am greatly consoled by this teaching of Jesus.  He is telling us that even if we have just a little tiny bit of faith, we will be able to move huge obstacles by the power of the Holy Spirit answering our prayers.