Moses said to the people: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
When the Lord your God has brought you into the land that he swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you--a land with fine, large cities that you did not build, houses filled with all sorts of goods that you did not fill, hewn cisterns that you did not hew, vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant--and when you have eaten your fill, take care that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. The Lord your God you shall fear; him you shall serve, and by his name alone you shall swear.
A man came up to Jesus, knelt before him, and said, "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; he often falls into the fire and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him." Jesus answered, "You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me." And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly.
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?" He said to them, "Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you."
Today's texts balance faith with love, miracles with life's normal routine. A vigorous spirituality needs to take account of these divergent aspects of life. It cannot focus exclusively on any single side. Truth and fidelity must be enriched with love, human limitations with divine hope and even miraculous intervention. Although we survive by living within our human resources, survival is hardly worth it if this life does not lead into the future life with God. We continue our reading from Deuteronomy with the famous Shema prayer, named from the initial Hebrew word, shema--"listen." This prayer is recited each day by the devout Jew and is the clarion call of Judaism: Listen, O Israel. The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. Shema' yisra'el. Yahweh 'elohenu, Yahweh 'ehad.
Not only did this exclamation of Jewish faith become ever more clearly a credo of absolute monotheism, but it also demanded absolute, total devotion from each Israelite, "Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. This devotion reaches into the home and spreads into the market place: Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad. Bind them at your wrist. Let them be a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your home." As with ourselves, the people can deal better with hopes than with fulfillment. Moses must warn them, "When you eat your fill, take care not to forget the Lord." They must never forget their role as servants of the living God.
The full impact of faith is seen in the Gospel. Faith cures the sick, drives out demons and moves mountains. This is a metaphor to emphasise Jesus' final words, "Nothing will be impossible for you," if you have faith. He reminds us that our life is involved in a struggle between superhuman forces of good and evil. We are called to daily expressions of faith, faith that prompts us even to question God like Habakkuk, yet faith that nonetheless reaches beyond human expectations--into the world to come.
In today's gospel, Jesus rebukes his disciples for their little faith. He doesn't say that they have no faith but tells them that they have little faith. They had just failed in their efforts to do the work that Jesus had sent them to do, bringing healing to a sick child. Jesus attributes this failure to their little faith. Many of us may find it easy to identify with the disciples. We think of ourselves as people of faith but we sense that our faith is not as strong as it could be. We don't trust the Lord enough. We have that striking promise of Jesus in the gospel that if our faith was as small even as a mustard seed we could move mountains. Jesus wanted his disciples to grow in their faith; it is what he wants for all of us. In response to that desire of Jesus for a stronger faith within us, we could make our own the prayer of the father of the sick child that we find in Mark's version of this story, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief."