11 August. Saturday of Week Eighteen
Hab 1:12ff. When the prophet questions God about injustice, God answers that the just person lives by faith.
Matthew 17:14ff. Jesus states the power of faith to cure the sick and to move mountains.
The Miraclous and the Routine
Today’s texts balance faith with love, miracles with life’s normal routine. A vigorous spirituality needs to take account of these divergent aspects of life. It cannot focus exclusively on any single side. Truth and fidelity must be enriched with love, human limitations with divine hope and even miraculous intervention. Although we survive by living within our human resources, survival is hardly worth it if this life does not lead into the future life with God.
This is the single text from Habakkuk among the thirty-four weeks of ordinary time. It is a short book in which the prophet brings human questions to God, and strangely enough these become equally the word of God. What first appears in Habakkuk is soon to become a standard style in the long books of Jeremiah and Job as well as in many psalms.
At the very outset, Habakkuk puts to God an anxious question, “How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen.” God replies that he intends to punish the wicked people of Jerusalem by summoning the Chaldeans or Babylonians to humble them. That provokes another question, “Why, then, do you gaze on the faithless in silence, while wicked persons devour one more just than themselves?” In the biblical faith, God tolerates these challenges to his wise control of the universe. Yet God also remains God and knows when to close the conversation. Finally God gives no explanation why the more wicked Babylonians are to punish the less wicked Jerusalemites, but offers the simple reply that later becomes Paul’s basic dictum (Rom 1:17), “The just person lives by faith.”
The full impact of faith is seen in the Gospel, where faith can cure the sick, drive out demons and move mountains. This metaphor underlies Jesus’ final words, “Nothing will be impossible for you,” if you have faith. He reminds us that our life is involved in a struggle between superhuman forces of good and evil. We are called to daily expressions of faith, faith that prompts us even to question God like Habakkuk, yet faith that reaches beyond human expectations – into the world to come.
First Reading: Habbakuk 1:12-2:4
Are you not from of old, O Lord my God, my Holy One?
You shall not die. O Lord, you have marked them for judgment;
and you, O Rock, have established them for punishment.
Your eyes are too pure to behold evil, and you cannot look on wrongdoing;
why do you look on the treacherous,
and are silent when the wicked swallow those more righteous than they?
You have made people like the fish of the sea, like crawling things that have no ruler.
The enemy brings all of them up with a hook; he drags them out with his net,
he gathers them in his net; so he rejoices and exults.
Therefore he sacrifices to his net and makes offerings to his net;
for by them his portion is lavish, and his food is rich.
Is he then to keep on emptying his net, and destroying nations without mercy?
I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint.
Then the Lord answered me and said:
Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.
For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.
Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.
Gospel: Matthew 17:14-20
When they came to the crowd, a man came to him, knelt before him, and said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; he often falls into the fire and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.” Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly.
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”