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Breath of the Spirit: Serving God in Our Commitment to Discernment and Kindness

In today’s gospel, the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith. Today’s reflection interrogates what that might mean, particularly in the context of oppressive Church structures and personal hardships. No simple (or simplistic) answers emerge, but instead we are encouraged to continue to serve our God in our discernment of what love looks like when we care for those right in front of us.


October 2, 2022: the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4

Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14

Luke 17:5-10


Serving God in Our Commitment to Discernment and Kindness

A reflection by Marianne Seggerman

The readings for this Sunday have not one but three separate themes. The gospel reading itself contains two threads – and the two previous readings reflect on the third.  In reverse order: the last half of today’s Gospel exhorts us to humble ourselves almost in the manner of a groveling servant.

But before whom should we prostrate ourselves? Groveling is perhaps too extreme a word.  Who then is the master for whom we not only work our butts off but come back after to ask if there isn’t anything more we can do? Is it our religious leaders? Coming from Jesus that’s rich. Challenging the authority of the religious leaders of his time got Jesus crucified. I have politically progressive friends who post on social media condemnations of Christianity. These upset me – because they assume a religious practice which commands absolute obedience to (as well as a lot of money for) spiritual leaders. The only one of this group who recognizes other approaches to faith practice is an out Episcopal priest whose critique is of that specific view of Christianity – the emphasis of absolute obedience over anything else.

If not as master of parishioners, what then is the role of clergy? Perhaps that’s looking at it the wrong way – first God finds you then you seek out a community with whom to share your faith.  At least that’s what happened to me. It was in an academic setting not a religious one where I first came to know God. In broader terms, the point of the priest, for me as far as I understand, is to collect and collate: as the instrument of the sacraments, in the prayers of the faithful – also adding his own. Another part of his (alas, in Catholicism it has always been “his”) job description, what he has been trained for, is to come up with the detail of just what is God’s will, in our time and in his parish. Perhaps the challenge here for us is to choose our leaders wisely and hold them to account as best we can for discerning God’s will – but not to forego our own call to discern!

The second theme for the readings comes from the beginning of the gospel, Luke 17:5-6, where the disciples beg Jesus to increase their faith. My first reaction was: “What the [heck] does that mean?”. Over some excellent Rhode Island clam chowder, I pulled up the passage and showed it to my Mormon boyfriend. He told me mustard seeds are very small. I could have figured that out myself from the context. I read Biblical commentary which noted how deep the roots of the mulberry tree are. Again, not especially helpful. But it got me thinking – how do we quantify faith? What is a little faith and how is it different from a great faith? If having a little faith means having doubts, isn’t that just, well, normal? In fact, aren’t doubts and questions the ground which faith needs to exist at all?

The final theme points to what is perhaps the ultimate mystery – if God is all powerful and all-knowing why does such evil exit in the world? You don’t think I have that answer, do you? I don’t. What I do know is that God has given me the strength to bear those difficulties I do have. God has often done so by working through others – and within me – even through those who did not realize the presence of God in their lives. God is in the man who points out you’ve left your keys where they’ve fallen out of your pocket; in the woman who forgives you despite the injuries that went both ways; in the kindness of strangers, and the warmth of friends.


Marianne Seggerman joined the chapter of Dignity New Haven around 30 years ago. That chapter is no longer, alas, but she continues to attend the biannual conference. In her day job she is a computer programmer living (and for the moment working) in Westport, Connecticut. She is in a long-term relationship with a person raised Jewish who converted to the Mormon faith.

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