Moving Mulberry Trees by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur


The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
The Lord replied,
“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
Luke 17:5-6

Have you moved any mulberry trees lately? If you have, I’d be willing to bet that it involved a great deal of back-breaking labor and some heavy machinery. As I heard this Gospel, I thought, “Wow! If I had enough faith, I could clean my house with a lot less effort.” Obviously, that isn’t the case.

What, then, is Jesus trying to tell his Apostles and us in this Gospel?  Jesus liked to use exaggeration to get his listeners attention. This is definitely one of those cases. So, despite the fact that we are unlikely to move any trees or clean our houses simply by believing that it can be so, the message is that our faith can still do amazing things.

Faith is what leads us to prayer. We believe that a higher power is in control. We know that we don’t have to do it all on our own. Honestly, I can’t even imagine trying to get through life that way. We have a God who loves us and is looking out for our best interests. We can talk to Him and ask for help. We can let Him lead us where He wants us to go.

Having that faith does not mean that life will be easy, however. I cringe whenever I hear someone preaching the (false) Gospel of prosperity with its message, “Believe in God and you will have success in this world.” Jesus never promised us success in this world. He never said that we wouldn’t suffer and would never get sick. In fact, he promised the exact opposite. He told us that following him meant picking up our cross, but he guaranteed that it would all be worth it in the end.

We all have metaphorical mulberry trees in our lives, the problems that have deep roots and simply won’t go away. Our faith allows us to believe that those problems will somehow be resolved and the tree will move. Maybe that tree is even there for a reason we can’t fully understand. Sure, it blocks our view and seems insurmountable. We wish it wasn’t there, but our faith is what keeps us going, despite the big obstacle in the way. Plus, we do know and trust that miracles do happen. Prayers do get answered (sometimes even in the way we hoped for!). Sometimes, those trees do get moved in amazing ways. Other times, they move slowly with lots of heavy labor. Jesus didn’t give a timetable for those trees moving into the sea. But, with faith and trust, they do eventually move.

What are the trees that need moving in your life? Do you have enough faith to turn them over to God? Are you able to trust that He knows what He is doing?

Copyright 2010 Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur


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  1. Patrice, great reflection. I admit I puzzled a while over this one in preparation for our weekly RCIA class. We include a discussion of the upcoming Sunday’s scripture readings with sharing. I really found myself identifying with the disciples asking for more faith. I have been doing that a lot myself. So when I read the response Jesus gave I was taken aback. You are right, of course, that it is a use of exaggeration. But still, somehow, I was missing the point and feeling that Jesus was “making fun of” my prayer. Not a good place to be. I like your reflection because it talks about faith as an action, not a passive thing. It’s about rephrasing my prayer into Lord, help me to put my faith into action. I realized that we have enough faith; God has gifted us with more than enough but if all we do is sit around feeling good about it or wanting more, then we are not being faithful servants. We are to be about God’s business and not expect to be waited on or granted more gifts than we could possibly use…the second prt of the Gospel. Deep stuff and challenging. But then the Good News always is. Blessings!

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