TWENTY-SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (2019)
Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14
The boldness of the Old Testament prophets is striking, so striking that some might be inclined to accuse them of being less than respectful of the God they so often address. But the prophets managed to secure their inclusion in the corpus of canonical literature, because their boldness is tied to their familiarity with a God who is part of their everyday lives.
How often have we been tempted to cry out with Habakkuk in our first reading: “How long, O Lord? I cry for help, but you do not listen! I cry out to you, “Violence!,” but you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery?” The intensity of our prayers for a long period of time might surely give us the right to place the words of Habakkuk on our lips, words meant to be more honest than despairing. What is important is that when we are tempted to despair, with Habakkuk, we recognize that the vision of peace and justice promised on most every page of Scripture will find its “fulfillment, and will not disappoint.” “If it delays,” says Habakkuk, “wait for it, [for] it will surely come.” It is the prophets’ faith in a loving God that is highlighted in our first reading, a faith that is center stage in our liturgy today, and in every liturgy.
It is faith that is spoken of in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, a letter written (perhaps by someone other that Paul) while Paul was in jail, only a short time away from his martyrdom. Paul knew what it meant to “bear [his] share of hardship for the gospel,” and he knew that he could only bear that hardship “with the strength that comes from God,” a strength that we can call faith. It is a strong faith which gave Paul, and all the martyrs, the power to face the literal laying down of their lives for the gospel, the “rich trust” that can only be guarded “with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within” all who bear the name Christian.
The apostles rightly sensed the weakness of their faith, a weakness manifested in the pages of Scripture, and so it is no surprise that they said to the Lord, “Increase our faith,” something we too might ask from time to time. Jesus’ answer to the apostles is meant to assure them that even with the smallest amount of faith, “a faith the size of a mustard seed,” a seed often looked upon as the smallest of all seeds, even with that amount of faith they could do great things. Jesus surely wanted to encourage the apostles. While faith in Jesus and His Word is essential for Christian living, even a small amount of faith can be nurtured and strengthened to a degree that can enable you to do the impossible, like replant a large tree in the ocean.
The parable of Jesus that speaks about the servants coming in from the field was not intended to display any kind of sensitivity. It seems so remarkably unfair that workers who have labored all day in the fields are then expected to cook the master’s dinner! But once again, the parable is not about fairness, it is about the humility necessary for faith to flourish. As servants of our Lord, the expectation is that we should do what is expected of servants, neither tiring or refusing to do what servants do. It is our faith which enables us to follow in the footsteps of the Lord. It is faith which enables us to persevere even when hardships afflict us. It is faith which enables us to do the unimaginable. When a person of faith is trustingly receptive to God’s power, all things become possible – even moving mountains or forgiving bitter enemies. It has been said: Charity means pardoning the unpardonable, or it is no virtue at all. Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all. And faith means believing the incredible, or it is no value at all. We are to humbly acknowledge our role as servants of the Lord, and do what Jesus has commanded us to do in His teachings, remembering what Habakkuk tells us in the first reading: “the just one, because of his faith, shall live.”
Like the apostles, we should not be bashful at asking the Lord to “increase our faith,” for while faith the size of a mustard seed is enough for salvation, any enlargement of our faith will result in our increased love for our Lord and Savior, which will lead to our increased love for all our brothers and sisters who share our earthly journey.