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When I read the first reading on  Wednesday, the last verse caught my attention:

And the victory that conquers the world is our faith

It seemed to have the whole cause-and-effect thing mixed up.  Victory is supposed to result from conquest, not cause it.  It’s the end product of strain and effort, the culmination of sweat and struggle.  Victory is supposed to be the brass ring you grasp after reaching  for it.  It’s the pose you strike standing over the vanquished foe, not the device that helped you gain that position.

This idea of victory being the agent that brings itself about (in the form of conquest) was confusing to me, but it became a little clearer when I finished reading the sentence.

And the victory . . . is our faith

So, if victory is faith, then it makes sense that victory is both means and end.  Because faith, as I understand it, feeds itself and culminates in more faith.

I have experienced this phenomenon.  At times when I feel most desperate, like when I found myself with an unplanned stop in Ouagadougou, I often resort to rote prayer.  And like yanking on an engine’s pull-cord, the rote prayer eventually finds traction in my soul and faith starts to bloom. And in these moments — when the warm glow of hope displaces the cold blanch of fear — I  recognize that faith is victory.

Maybe that’s what Christ meant about faith the size of a mustard seed.

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