Discalced Carmelite Friars

Province of St. Therese


Mustard Seed Faith – Part 2


Jesus' response to the apostles' request in Luke 17:5, to "Increase our faith," is one that has continued to intrigue me in recent months. It has brought a continuing refrain: "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed..."

It has struck me during this time how it seems that Jesus infers they (myself, included!) are needing more insight on what faith is, and it's related to the minuscule size of that seed. Look at what happens with a practically "microscopic," but authentic faith: humanly impossible things.

Looking closer, it's the reality of our limitedness, and the reciprocity of its opening with our trust to the presence and action of God that stand out: not the emphasis on what "I can do," but the incomprehensible, incomparable wonder of God abiding in and acting through us, in love.

With the canonization of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity this past October, the writings of our newest Carmelite Saint have entered my thoughts on this topic. Her reflection on faith, and reference to the soul being a "praise of glory" catch my attention. The following excerpts are from SPIRITUAL DOCTRINE of BLESSED ELIZABETH of the TRINITY, by Luigi Borriello, OCD.

"As regards the virtue of faith, Elizabeth writes as follows: 'To approach God we must believe (Heb 11:6)... Faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb 11:1)... St. John of the Cross says that it serves as 'feet' to go to God...' It alone can give us true light 'concerning him whom we love, and our soul must 'choose it as the means to reach blessed union.' It pours out in torrents in the depths of our being all spiritual goods. Christ, speaking to the Samaritan woman, indicated faith when he promised to all those who would believe in him that he would give them a 'fountain of water springing up to life everlasting.'

Thus, even in this life faith gives us God, covered, it is true, with a veil but nonetheless God himself.'

For the young Carmelite faith is a face to face encounter with God, but in darkness; it is a prelude to vision...faith is a firm belief in God's love for us, accompanied by trusting and total abandonment."

"'We have come to know and to believe in the live God has for us (1 Jn 4:16). That is our great act of faith, the way to repay our God's love for love: it is the 'mystery hidden' (Col 1:26) in the Father's heart, of which St. Paul speaks, which, at last we penetrate and our whole soul thrills!... It no longer rests in inclinations or feelings; it matters little to the soul whether it feels God or not, whether he sends joy or suffering: it believes in his love. THE MORE IT IS TRIED, THE MORE ITS FAITH INCREASES, because it passes over all obstacles, as it were, to rest in the heart of infinite Love who can perform only works of love'" pp. 75-76).

In this Advent, Elizabeth's reference to St. John of the Cross' expression of faith serving as "feet" going to God, we can see Mary and Joseph proceeding to Bethlehem with each step taken in that kind of faith. Their journey, wearying beyond a humanly apparent rewarding purpose to them, is continued by them to its providentially appointed destination. This is the faith described above by Elizabeth, the faith called for by Jesus of the apostles, the faith that gave birth to and that cradled him first, as our
infant Savior.

Remembering Mary's and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem, and Jesus' birth there, Christmas can be a fresh inspiration for mustard seed faith, for most humble recognition of God's Presence, and an inspiration to experience more fully Elizabeth's description of ultimate fulfillment of faith:

"A praise of glory is a soul that gazes on God in faith and simplicity; it is a reflector of all that he is; it is like a bottomless abyss into which he can flow and expand" (p. 108).

"God is love, and he who abides in love, abides in God, and God in him." (1 Jn 4:16). In light of eternity, faith is a small entryway in poverty, during time, to God, his immeasurably rich and mysterious, infinite love.

"Increase in us, Lord, the faith you have given us..."


Written by A Listening Heart
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