The apostles said to the Lord "Lord, increase our faith". (Luke 17:5)
Today's Gospel looks as though it's in two parts, with two differing messages. Firstly, the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith. In the second part, he speaks about the importance of being a good and faithful servant. On first reading they might appear disconnected.
But are they?
Faith, not surprisingly, is a frequent theme in Jesus' teaching. He often rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith. At the stilling of the storm, for example, when they wake him in the boat - "O men of little faith" he says. He remarks on their lack of faith too, when, after the transfiguration unable to heal the epileptic boy - and then, the father of the boy says "I have faith, help me where faith falls short!"
In hearing such teaching, we, like those in the story, might feel rather inadequate. How can we ever have enough faith? What can we do to be more faithful?
But here, we have words of great encouragement.
Firstly, the apostles see one thing very clearly. "Lord, increase our faith", they say. For their faith to increase - well that must be an act, or gift, or rather grace of God, not something they can do simply by their own efforts. We might think that if only we believed more, prayed harder, said more rosaries or attended more masses, then we would have more faith - but no. We can stand in the way of faith, but fundamentally faith is a gift of God, not an achievement of humanity.
Secondly, we should not worry about faith, as if it could be measured, weighed, valued. We, like the apostles, might feel we have little faith, but - Jesus says, even the tiniest amount of faith, faith as tiny as the mustard seed, can achieve extra-ordinary things. "You've got only a little faith?" Jesus seems to say, "You'll be amazed what it can do!
And thirdly, and this is where the two parts of today's Gospel are joined together - living in faith is not about being impressive, or important, or super holy. How do we live and keep the faith? The answer is beautiful in all its simplicity. It doesn't require great knowledge or understanding or extra-ordinarily impressive holiness. Just this - Be a good and faithful servant. Do your duty. Perform your service of God. Do not feel inferior or superior. Just do what you know to be right. Offer him your worship and show love and compassion to all people. Love God and love your neighbour. No more and no less is required.
"We are merely servants, we have done no more than our duty" the Gospel says. This is sanctity. This is holiness. This is faith!