27 January 2006

Growing in faith, spreading it around...

3rd Week OT (Fri): 2 Sam 11.1-10, 13-17; Mark 4.26-34
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation, University of Dallas

Hear it!

How do you grow in faith? How do you multiply that faith?

Jesus tells those gathered around him that living the Way is like sowing seeds one day and harvesting the crop the next. Living in Christ is like scattering seeds—of trust, of mercy, of forgiveness—throwing out there to sprout the Word all those things of beatitude, of grace, that take root, crave our care, receive nourishment, and flower into sure signs of God’s love for us. Being a Christian working on our own little field of holiness is like being a farmer whose abundant crop sneaks across fences, spreads along the turn row, creeps into and over ditches, and roots itself—carefully, gently, but stubbornly—into the fertile ground of every field nearby. Anyone who has tended a garden or planted a field can tell you: containing a rich harvest is no easy task!

Our daily work of holiness is not a private labor. It is not work done in secret, work done in darkness or alone. Our daily work of holiness is the public work of farming the faith—broadcasting the seed, tending the sprouts, choking out the weeds, and harvesting the fruit.

Don’t get me wrong. Of course, there’s a deeply personal side to our walk in the Way. There is always that time and place when and where we meet Jesus alone and find ourselves confronted by our sin, comforted by his forgiveness, and energized to carry on despite the temptations to despair. These moments are essential to our growth, basic to the work of perfecting our natures. However, our faith cannot be merely private, merely personal. There is always that time and place when and where we meet Jesus in one another, in the stranger, in those cast aside and we find ourselves confronted by our dependence, comforted by our family ties in faith, and shown the way to the Kingdom together.

How do you grow in faith? How do you multiply that faith? Growing in faith requires attention to prayer and to service. And not just prayer and service. Growing in faith requires attention to studying the Word and living in communion—contemplating God’s Self-revelation in scripture and living within the reach and grasp of all those who seek to do God’s will. Prayer grounds us in an abiding, an enduring conversation with God that grows our awareness of our dependence on Him. Prayer unlocks the gates of our shut-up hearts to His will for us. And clears away the blighted weeds of sin. Service, done in His name and for His glory, radically reconnects us, that is, it attaches us again to the root of our lives together, bringing to mind again and again that we receive our salvation and prosper in it together, always together, never alone.

Is it enough to grow in faith? No, really, it isn’t. Jesus teaches us in parable that our growing faith is contagious, spreading, overlapping fence lines, and catching in the fertile fields all around us—friends, roommates, classmates, co-workers, family. That tiny mustard seed of faith is huge! It’s the germ of a mighty plant, the speck that sprouts a tree. And as we grow in our faith, we are responsible for scattering that faith, slinging it in every direction, blessing and prospering everyone we meet, nurturing to flower each seed we sow.

How do you grow in faith? Prayer, service, study, and community. How do you multiply that faith? Prayer, service, study, and community—all in His name, always for His glory!


  1. Finally! Audio for these homilies. I recorded this one in my office and I'm not happy with the result. I want to record them as I preach them from the pulpit. Working on that...

    My thanks to all who sent suggestions and info...

    Fr. Philip

  2. Thanks to my techie student, Patrick Norton, for his invaluable help!

    Fr. Philip