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Let’s say you are walking along and inadvertently you step in some quicksand. It is a slow sink, but the more you struggle the deeper you get. Finally, you are up to your neck and you are about to be buried alive. The end is near, but then someone comes by, sees you, and reaches down to help. So what do you do? Do you insist on seeing some identification, or need to know the guy’s political party preference? No, of course not, you grab the person’s hand and get pulled out.
The Israelites found themselves in a similar situation. The Babylonians had destroyed their cities, their temple, and deported many of them to a foreign land. The Israelites are about to be erased from history. It is at this point in time that the Babylonians turn to them and say, “It is obvious that Yahweh, your God, is not doing you any favors. He has turned his back and walked away from you. He doesn’t seem to like you anymore. Why don’t you join us? Our pagan gods will accept you. Our gods have been very good to us. We have an empire, we are respected by all nations, we have beautiful gardens and magnificent buildings.” The Babylonians are reaching out to them before they disappear from existence. You would think that the Israelites would have accepted their offer but instead, they said to them, “No thanks! We are staying with our God. We may not understand why God is not helping us, but no matter how bad it looks, no matter how hopeless the situation may seem, we are staying with our God to the end.”
Think about that. This is the Israelites finest hour. This is the moment that they show to God their strong faith. I call this “staying power.” We have seen it before from the Israelites. Remember when they were in the desert: no food, no water, no protection. It did cross their mind more than once while they were in the desert to go back to Egypt. In Egypt, they had nice homes, unlike the pup tents they use in the desert. Egypt had beautiful rich gardens, not the wasteland of the desert. Egypt had a city life and urban living. Now they are just wandering nomads without a country. They could have left God in the desert and gone back to better accommodations. They didn’t. They gave up everything to be with God. No matter how bad it is or how hopeless it seems they stay with their God. Staying power.
Remember Jesus called Peter, James, and John. They were fishermen. They left everything to follow the Lord. You may not be impressed that they gave up an old boat and a smelly net, but here is a fact. In Capernaum, there were two industries. There was the fishing industry and the millstone factory. What would you like to do for a living, chisel stone all day or go fishing? If you were not good at fishing then you were not so lucky. Jesus’ team gave up a lot because they had the better occupation of the area. So they follow the Lord and became disciples.
Unfortunately, they were not very good at it. They would constantly put their foot in their mouth and say the wrong thing, they lacked faith, they understood very little, and did not comply with the high standards of Jesus. So at one point, Peter had to pull Jesus aside and point out that they are not very good disciples, they did, in fact, do one thing right. They gave up everything to follow him. They had staying power. When Jesus tells us to have the faith of a mustard seed, it means staying power. A mustard seed is not very impressive, but when it is planted it develops a strong root system. It becomes fixed in the ground and it does not budge. It has lots of staying power.
Like the Apostles, we are not always very good at discipleship. None of us can say that being a saint is a walk in the park. We are all flawed and we struggle. But we can still have faith like a mustard seed. Although we are not very impressive, we can have staying power. That is, no matter how hard it is, no matter how hopeless it may be, great faith is never leaving the Lord.Back to All Homilies