Sunday Sermon for October 2, 2016, the Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary time, Year C
Readings: Hab 1:2-3, 2:2-4; 2Tim 1:6-8, 13-14; Lk 17:5-10
I have commented many times before on the last lines of the Gospel reading today where our Lord tells us to say: “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.” Tragically, I wish that I could say that, but I cannot. I have been commanded by my Lord to love God with my whole heart and soul and strength and to love my neighbor. Not only have I not succeeded, I have not even come close to succeeding in this. I realize that I can only speak for myself, perhaps you have done better than I, but it is hope that someday I will be able to make my way up to being an unprofitable servant who has actually done what he was obliged to do.
In the face of such a realization of our own ineptitude at doing the very thing we were created to do it would be easy to despair. Thankfully, in His mercy the Lord continues to provide us with grace and with opportunities to get back up and try again. Of course, along with our own failures to rise to the level of being unprofitable, we can add the situation that surrounds us in our daily lives and we are faced, once again, with a temptation to give up. This time, rather than it being our own failures that cause the despair, it is the fact that we are not seeing God intervening to put an end to the evil around us. We can be tempted to give in to the evil and become “like everyone else” or to walk away from God because He is not doing what we think He ought to do.
To this Habakkuk provides the Lord’s response: “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. The rash one has no integrity; but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.” We recognize that it is a test of our faith. God is also giving us the opportunity to keep trying to get up and do better than we have done in the past, but most importantly, it is a test to see whether or not we will remain faithful in the midst of such gross infidelity.
Our sense of justice cries out that something should have been done a long time ago. Our sense of propriety demands that things be set right. But when neither of these things happens we might be confronted by a crisis of faith. We thought we were pretty strong, but suddenly we come to the realization of just how weak we really are. We find that we are in circumstances similar to those of Timothy when St. Paul had to remind him not to be ashamed of his testimony to Jesus nor to St. Paul who was then in prison.
With it being politically incorrect to be outwardly Christian these days, we may find it more expedient to hide our faith under to bushel basket in order to avoid conflict or rejection. St. Paul, on the other hand, tells Timothy to stir into flame the gift that was given to him when St. Paul laid hands on him. Every man who has been ordained has had hands laid upon him for the conferral of this great gift. But every one of us who has been baptized and confirmed has had hands laid upon us. The Holy Spirit was given to us in Confirmation so that we could live our Faith in an heroic manner.
St. Paul calls upon each of us to bear our share of hardship for the Gospel. We can look at the heroic faith of the people in the Middle East and in Africa who are being killed for their witness to Jesus. We can look at the people in China and other Communist countries who live their faith in very difficult circumstances. Then we look at ourselves and we are afraid of a little bit of ridicule and rejection?!
There is no need to be obnoxious, trying to call attention to ourselves because of our faith. Instead, all we have to do is live it. If you are praying, living the commandments, and maintaining the truth in love, it will be evident to all that you are not like most of the people who surround you. We are not called to be like everyone else; we are called to be like Jesus. If you are like me, you have not yet demonstrated faith the size of a mustard seed nor have we ascended to the level of unprofitable servant. God is giving us the chance to stir the gift into flame and to live by faith.
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.