Last Friday week 27th September was the Feast Day of St Vincent de Paul, the founder of the Congregation of the Mission and the co-founder of the Daughters of Charity. St Vincent was a man of faith and the way that he showed his faith shows up in two ways in the Gospel we have heard today: being led and being in relationship with others.
We hear the disciples asking the Lord “Increase our faith.” Sometimes people can make the mistake by thinking faith is just about deciding to believe. Whilst that is a good start, that on its own is not enough. Strangely enough, nor is the decision to trust, good as that is. What it needs to be accompanied by is a decision to allow God to lead us in our lives.
St Vincent de Paul allowed God to do this in his life. In his writings he often referred to ‘God’s Providence.’ He was quite often slow in coming to decisions as he wanted to be certain that it was God’s will that such and such a thing be done. However, when he felt certain, he moved quickly. This attitude is summed up well in the invitation to pray when we pray the ‘Our Father’ in the words Jesus taught us. These very words express our desire to conform our will to that of Jesus. We pray “thy will be done” not “my will be done.”
The words “Increase our faith” remind us of another crucial aspect of faith and that is in being in relationship with others. Faith does not grow in isolation. We need to be nurtured and challenged by the faith of others. Once again St Vincent de Paul demonstrated this by living in and forming communities. He encouraged others to release their faith by serving others.
Nick Vujicic is an Australian born motivational speaker who was born without any arms or legs. One day when addressing a church congregation he had the following things to say about faith:
“I stand before you today limbless but not disabled because I walk by faith … If you replace ‘dis’ with ‘God is’ then ‘disable’ is transformed into ‘God is able’… the greatest disabilities are sin and death, forget about arms and legs … if you put your trust in happiness in temporary things then your happiness will be temporary. You have got to put your happiness in Jesus, know him as your intimate friend. My heavenly Father knows me. I know him. He has given me everything I need.”
Despite his physical disabilities Nick Vujicic is a man who has allowed God to lead him and he is clearly able to connect with others.
Without faith, when things go wrong in our lives then that is all we will be likely to see. If we continue to go down that path, then we eventually manage to isolate ourselves. Having faith liberates us and helps us to see the power and love of God at work in our lives regardless of what is taking place externally. Our relationship with God and others is maintained. In the Gospel Jesus reminds us that faith, even just a little will enable us to do wondrous things. This is what St Vincent de Paul understood in his lifetime. Hopefully we will too.