Sunday Sermon for October 2, 2022, the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Hab 1:2-3, 2:2-4; 2 Tim 1:6-8, 13-14; Lk 17:5-10
The first reading today, from the Prophet Habakkuk, is very apropos for our time. As it was in his day, so too it is in ours: people crying to God for help, but nothing seems to happen; people crying out “violence,” but God does not intervene. The great question that is being heard over and over again is the same question Habakkuk asked the Lord about 2700 years ago: “How long, O Lord?”
To this question, which as we just saw, seems to receive no response, God answers as He did to the Prophet: “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.” Perhaps, because it would seem that God is not listening, that we can understand why the Lord told the Prophet to write down this vision clearly so one can readily read it.
The point God adds after the above quote is also most important for us to hear and to understand: “The rash one has no integrity; but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.” If we get frustrated because things are not going the way we think they should or because things are not happening according to our timeline, we tend to withdraw our focus from the Lord and try, instead, to take things into our own control.
If we are to live by faith, that means we need to believe in what the Lord has revealed and we need to never waver or doubt. Even from the answer God gives to Habakkuk, it is clear that His intent is to test our faith by allowing things to get difficult. Remember, virtues only grow when they are tested or exercised. Faith will only grow when we need to practice it in situations that might cause us to doubt or question.
The struggle the Prophet Habakkuk endured was not removed from humanity when Jesus came into the world. Indeed, St. Paul tells Timothy to “bear your share of hardship for the Gospel.” He follows this by telling Timothy to take as his norm for living what St. Paul taught him “in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” So, our Lord did not remove the struggle, but St. Paul adds a new and deeper dimension to the way we can deal with the interior strife. This new way is based on our faith in Jesus, but it adds charity along with faith. In other words, not only do we believe what God has promised and revealed, but we choose to accept hardships for Him as an act of love.
Since St. Paul recognizes the necessity of bearing our share of hardship for the Gospel, we need to realize this kind of suffering is part and parcel of being Christian. As Americans, we do everything in our power to avoid suffering, but we cannot. Instead, we need to learn to accept and, as mentioned above, to choose to embrace hardship and suffering as an act of love. When we do this, we can apply to ourselves the words of our Lord in today’s Gospel reading: “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.”
Many times I have said that someday, by the grace of God, I might be able to rise to the level of being an unprofitable servant who had done what I am obliged to do. However, at present, I am far from being able to say that. I am not sure what would be lower than an unprofitable servant, but I know that is where I am. I don’t think I have ever done what I am obliged to do, let alone do it consistently.
Just think how many times we fail to love God and neighbor, the two greatest of all the commandments. How many times does our faith falter when we are tested. We know the promises of our Lord, but we do not really trust Him to do what He said He would do. How frequently do we take our eyes off Heaven to focus on the things of earth or, how often do we make the things of earth more important than the things of Heaven? How often do we try to fit in with the ways of the world instead of trying to conform ourselves to the norms of living presented in the Gospels, as St. Paul instructs Timothy?
Our doubts and questions merely show where we are lacking in faith. God, in His mercy, is giving us a wonderful opportunity to develop our faith. Therefore, believe in His words and trust in His promises, for “the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint”!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.