Today’s reflection is by Bondings 2.0 contributor Grace Doerfler, whose bio is available here.
Today’s liturgical readings for the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time can be found here.
In today’s gospel (Luke 17:5-10), the Apostles ask Jesus for more faith, and he replies that faith the size of a mustard seed can work wonders.
“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,” he tells his disciples.
In the past, I’ve read this comment from Jesus as a sort of rebuke. But sitting with this scripture passage has invited me to hear these words from Jesus in a new way — as words of reassurance. As small or as weak as we may imagine our faith to be at times, Jesus seems to be saying what we have to offer is enough. And we can trust that God is working in our lives, increasing the fruits of our faith in ways we can’t necessarily imagine.
The second half of today’s gospel, Jesus’ image of the humble and dutiful servant seems at first glance unconnected from the image of the mustard seed. Jesus tells his disciples that they should not expect a quick reward for their faith, instead comparing a life of discipleship to a long day full of duties.
Not the most glamorous image, perhaps. But the spirituality of Dorothy Day, known for her radical hospitality, offers a clue for one way to make sense of the two halves of this gospel. In a meditation on Christmas, she wrote:
“What a simplification of life it would be if we forced ourselves to see that everywhere we go is Christ, wearing out socks we have to darn, eating the food we have to cook, laughing with us, silent with us, sleeping with us.”
For Dorothy, discipleship was a duty, and that duty was delight.
Her life of service to people experiencing poverty and homelessness was grounded in small acts of love: washing the dishes, doing the laundry, making up beds for guests, praying for those in need.
Dorothy’s example of discipleship shows us that we don’t necessarily need an increase of faith to do great things, as the apostles imagine in today’s gospel. Jesus assures them — and us — that the faith that animates our everyday lives is plenty for God to work with. Sanctity exists in the mundane tasks that make up so much of our lives. God magnifies our efforts in ways we don’t immediately see or understand, like a mustard seed sprouting into growth.
Many LGBTQ+ Catholics grieve exclusion from community, sacrament, or ministry based on their identities; many more grieve strained relationships with family members or a lack of freedom to share their full selves. There are many wounds in need of healing.
But today’s gospel, and its reminder of the daily work of discipleship, offers a glimpse of how we can respond to these challenges. Holy are the ways that we care for one another, holy the ways we nourish each other’s faith. When we create community for those who have long been excluded — whether because of socioeconomic status, immigration status, disability, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity — we plant a seed. However small our efforts may seem, they are precisely the work of building God’s reign that Jesus invites us to in today’s gospel.
In the steady witness of our lives, from the darning of socks on up, we’re invited to trust that God is always present, “laughing with us, silent with us, sleeping with us.” Serving God among us in all the forms God takes is no more than our duty, as Jesus tells us today and as Dorothy Day reminds us, but it is a duty that can uproot mulberry trees and plant them in the sea. As we love and care for one another, in the faith that the one we serve is Christ, Jesus promises that our mustard seed faith can indeed do more than we can imagine.
In what small, ordinary ways can you, as an LGBTQ+ person or ally, help build the reign of God? What small, ordinary actions by others have had a positive effect on you? Leave a comment in the section below.
—Grace Doerfler (she/her), New Ways Ministry, October 2, 2022