Sunday Sermon for October 6, 2019, 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
In the Gospel reading today the Apostles ask our Lord to increase their faith. Jesus answers by telling them that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed they could command a mulberry tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea and it would obey. Notice that Jesus does not address the request; rather, He only provides an example to make clear that their faith is not even as big as a mustard seed.
Like any virtue, faith only grows when tested. If we want to grow in faith, we have to put faith into practice. However, this is not merely in the objective and generic way; faith must be exercised in practical ways in our daily lives. In other words, faith is not just the acceptance of the revealed truths of God, but acting on the truths we profess.
We live in a time which must resemble to some degree the time in which the Prophet Habakkuk lived. I say this because the first words of today’s first reading are the exact same words from various people over the past few years: “How long, O Lord?” This perceived urgency has increased in recent months.
God tells Habakkuk two things we need to keep in mind as the situation in the Church and in the world continue to spiral downward. The first point is that the rash person has no integrity while the just person will live because of faith. This faith requires believing what God has revealed, and also remaining faithful because we know what has been revealed. The present situation, as sad as it is, should not shock anyone who has read the Scriptures and knows what God has told us.
This brings us to the second point: “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.” Some people would say that several years ago would have been too late. It might seem this way, but God’s time is perfect. He will intervene, but only in the fulness of His time.
God has made promises and has revealed some of the things to come. He made clear to St. Paul that the man of perdition will not come until after the great apostasy. Well, this means a great apostasy must happen. Our Lady has made clear that this is her time; it is God’s plan to defeat Satan through “the woman” as we read in Genesis 3:15.
Two thousand years ago it was God’s plan to defeat Satan through Jesus. The people of Israel had to wait many years for their Messiah. Even after He came our Lord spoke of how He had been longing for the day to arrive. God’s promises will not fail. The vision still has its time; it will not disappoint. If it seems that God is delaying in the fulfillment of the vision, wait; it will come, it will not be late.
In the meantime, we have to live by faith in what God has promised. If this is the time of the great apostasy, which we are not yet certain, we will need faith much larger than a mustard seed. Truly, we will need to live by faith, knowing that God, who made the promises, is trustworthy. Jesus told us the Gates of Hell would not prevail. The only reason He needed to say this is because it will appear that these gates are prevailing. Our faith must remain firm, because we have the promises of our Lord. He will be faithful in keeping His promises. Will we be faithful in believing in them?
Thankfully, we are not left to our own devices to do this. As St. Paul instructs Timothy, we are to guard the sound words we have, not only from St. Paul, but in all the Scriptures and the teachings of the Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit Who dwells in us.
So, God has revealed the truths of the Faith and has made promises, He gives us the grace to hear and accept these truths, then He give Himself to us to dwell within us and to help us so we can remain faithful. To state the obvious: we are too weak to do this ourselves. The revelation is a gift from God; the grace to believe is a gift from God, and fidelity is a gift from God. Of course, He will not force anything on us, so we have to ask for help and avail ourselves of His help. Now is the time for our faith to increase by putting it into practice. God is faithful: He has made the promises, and He will fulfill them.
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.