The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey you.
‘Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal immediately”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink yourself afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”’
This Sunday’s gospel reading speaks about faith. In the book ‘Found Among Sinners,’ Martin Cilia speaks about De Piro’s faith.
Listening in Faith:
To read his story in the light of God, and to be in tune with the One who loved him and called him, De Piro was more than aware of the need to listen to the voice of God who speaks in the silence of the heart. “Do you know what is the most important thing?” he writes “It is to listen and follow God’s word that is much more worthy than the whole world with all that it can offer.” He founded his spiritual life on: “the duty to stay always near God to listen to his voice.” This was the beginning of his radical commitment to others and his steadfast perseverance in his vision and dream, “the ear of your soul should be always ready to hear His voice.” On the contrary deafness to this voice is, “the terrible consequence of sin.”
Faith as a gift:
“May the Lord, through his spirit, enable you to grow firm in strength with regards to your inner self, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, to all God’s holy people” (Eph 3:16-18).
De Piro was convinced that, like all human relationships, there is a particular paradox about prayer. It is a gift from God but at the same time it depends on one’s openness to it, “if the need to pray is deep, it is as much difficult to know how to pray well. By himself man would have never succeeded in finding the way to pray.” He knew by experience that he had to relax into the reality of being loved by God and at the same time he struggled to let go of his own defences in an act of self-surrender. He developed a very simple child-like attitude but it took him a life long journey to achieve it.
De Piro was very much in touch with his own weakness, and that he shared in the weakness of all humanity. Humans by nature are weak, they are slaves of evil, so they need to unite themselves to God. Weakness for De Piro was not only moral but also physical, to the bishop he writes, “as you know, last year I was hit by a breakdown, that has weakened me, I lost energy and strength to keep up with my activities.” Such weakness was never a source of discouragement but, to the contrary, it drew him more and more to root his strength in God:
‘Lord see to it that my heart be similar to yours, so that the saying ‘the priest is another Christ’ ever assimilated in me.’ My heart is poor, but you enrich it with your heavenly gifts; my heart is weak, but you give it life with you love; my heart is restless but you strengthen it with your blessings, my heart is blind, but you shine with your divine light.’
Basic to De Piro’s prayer life was to learn to be in tune with the voice that was calling him in his story and to ‘judge everything with the eyes of faith.’ In order to develop such attitude one needed to be near the Lord, ‘as water is necessary for the tree so is prayer for the soul that believes, as long as we go on praying we get stronger in virtue and in the grace of God.’