The readings for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time are all about faith. We might ask, “Just what is faith?” Faith is believing that what God has promised will come our way, without any considerations such as when, where or how.
St. Louis Auxiliary Bishop George Gottwald once used a series of questions to help us understand the nature of faith. “What is it that the person who prays sees, and the person who doesn’t pray does not see? What is it that the person who goes to Mass every Sunday sees, and the person who has dropped out of Mass attendance does not see? What is it that the parents who say ‘yes’ to welcoming a (child with Down syndrome) into the world see, and those who choose to abort such a child do not see?”
The answer to the above questions is, simply, the person of faith trusts that God will be faithful to all of His promises.
As we reflect on these readings, keep in mind an issue of faith that is particularly challenging to you. Then, from what you have experienced from your reflections on God’s word, revisit that challenge. How has the reflection changed the way you once viewed your faith issue in the past?
In the first reading, Habakkuk is crying out in pain: “How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not intervene.” In spite of Habakkuk’s pain, there is something very beautiful in his cry. He knows that God is the source of goodness that can help him, and he has hope that God will respond. He just doesn’t like God’s timing.
Have you ever felt that God’s timing was off when you cried out to Him?
God comes through. “Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily. For 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.”
Think of this! For centuries God promised to send to the Jewish people a Messiah. When He finally arrived, only Mary and Joseph were prepared to receive Him. An angel revealed Him to a few shepherds. They believed, went to Bethlehem and adored Him! It took another thirty years for the general public to find out that the Messiah was in their midst.
In the second reading, Paul tells Timothy “I remind you, to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.” He is encouraging Timothy not to be a coward. “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” Paul tells him to “Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.”
If you want to stir up your faith, stir up the Holy Spirit within you. The Holy Spirit will help you see what God sees and will enliven your faith to act on what the Holy Spirit shows you.
Once a parishioner asked me to go to a hospital at 8 p.m. to pray that he would have the strength to undergo a kidney stone operation the following morning. I went and prayed, but the more I prayed, the more he twisted, turned, moaned and groaned. Finally, I suggested that I let him get the rest he needs for the morning operation. He thanked me. On the way home I said: “Lord, why did I go to the hospital to pray for him?” I got the impression that God said: “Because he asked you!”
The next day he called me and told me he didn’t need an operation. He asked them to do x-rays, and they told him that he passed the stones last night. He had more faith than I did, but we both were obedient to God.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells us: “If you have the faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” A mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds, and a mulberry tree was believed to have a massive root system, making it very difficult to uproot.
In the second example of faith, Jesus tells the story of the servant coming in from the fields after a hard day’s work, and the master of the house asks him to prepare a meal for the master first, and later for himself. Jesus is not commenting on the rightness of the custom, but rather on how our God expects us to deal with unjust and unexpected demands.
This is at the heart of the teachings on faith. When you and I come upon an unjust or unexpected demand, do we comply or do we complain? Too often I prefer the latter, but when I do the former, my heart is filled with gratitude and joy.
Living a life of faith means embracing with equanimity whatever events or challenges come our way for the sake of doing God’s holy will. This brings us incredible peace and joy.
We might even want to offer up the sacrifice for the salvation of souls, which is even more effective.
We can’t live this life of faith unless we nurture it in our daily prayer life. We can begin by asking God forgiveness for our failures in not going the extra mile. But we also need to thank Him for those times when it was a joy to serve Him in others!