Good news! I was hired last week by FAITH Catholic (formerly Liturgical Commission Publishing) to write occasional homilies and commentaries for their Daily Homilies and Daily Commentaries and General Intercessions series. This sample homily, on Matthew 17:14-20, was part of my application.
The next time you’re in the supermarket, pick up a bottle or a jar of brown mustard. Not the yellow stuff in the squeeze bottle with the big red flag on the label, but the kind you get at a deli. Hold it up and look closely at the seeds. Mustard seeds are tiny, barely more than specks, and a thousand of them can easily fit in an eight-ounce jar of brown mustard. But Jesus tells us this little speck of faith is enough to uproot a mountain.
And Jesus isn’t talking about some random mountain. As he is speaking to his disciples, they are standing in the shadow of the holiest mountain—Mount Zion, the site of the Temple, the place where heaven and earth meet, and the center of the world. This is the mountain chosen by God for his dwelling place. It moves for no one.
But imagine for a moment a tiny, insignificant seed moving a large, and very significant, mountain. Jesus loves to make his points through exaggeration, and this story is no exception. It’s not enough for him to say “because of your little faith” when they ask why they couldn’t cure the epileptic boy, he has to show them. “Look at this mustard seed,” he says. “If this tiny dot of faith could uproot the Temple and move it to the other side of town, then how much smaller must your faith be?” He knows his audience, both the disciples and the crowd, and he knows how faithless they’ve become.
And yet he never gives up on them. That’s the message that runs though all of Scripture. No matter how often we give up on God, he never gives up on us. Habakkuk knows this. He stands on the walls of Jerusalem, demanding an answer from God for the injustice he sees around him and refusing to budge until he gets one, but he knows an answer is coming. The father of the epileptic boy knows this. Even after the disciples fail, he refuses to give up hope and approaches Jesus directly. The father of the epileptic is the one person in the crowd who has faith, even if it is only the size of a mustard seed.
Jesus wants his disciples to know this too. Their faith will soon be tested by something far more horrifying than a demon possessing an epileptic boy. They will fail then too. They will give up, and they will abandon Jesus on the cross.
But even on the cross, Jesus will not give up on them. For “he is the image of the invisible God,” and God never gives up on us.