The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” (Luke 17:5)
The apostles struggled with the picture of God that Jesus has been painting for them since His prediction of His suffering, death and resurrection in Jerusalem. They were used to and are clinging to a vengeful god. Jesus’ God is eternally loving and forgiving.
All of us share in that same struggle. We project onto God our own fallen nature where our own sense of worth is dependent on other fallen human beings. Our self-esteem depends on the conditions of other’s regard and treatment of us.
When others regard us and treat us positively, only then will our sense of worth be positive and only then also will our regard for and treatment of them be positive. Enemies do not deserve our love because they do not boost our self-esteem.
The apostles are beginning to see that the God that our Lord Jesus is revealing to them is nothing like that. Now that our Lord keeps telling them that they ought to be like this God, like His Father, they realize that they need help with their faith.
They cannot imagine forgiving someone who keeps repeating the same offense after repenting each time. Neither can we. Our love of someone (and forgiveness is the greatest expression of love,) is conditional. Our love is dependent on the condition of the sinner’s behavior.
Our Lord’s resolute determination to go to Jerusalem comes not from our sinfulness but from the Father’s unchanging, unconditional love for His children. This is the faith we are invited by our Lord to have in our Father. Our faith in this God saves us.
Our God is love. His love existed from all eternity and unto all eternity before He created us. His love is not regulated by us or dependent on our acceptance or rejection of Him. He will always love us.
It is this love that drives Jesus to Jerusalem. It is this love that He pours out to us from His pierced heart. This is the love that we must fix our gaze on. This is the love that we must have faith in.
This is the love that drives us to serve, to forgive others. It seeks not any reason to flow out of us to others other than the Father’s own unconditional and ever-forgiving love for us.
By Fr. Simione Volavola, MSC(Pennsylvania Community, Center Valley, PA)
Father Simi professed his first vows on February 20, 1995, and was ordained on January 27, 2001.