6th October 2013. 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Hab 1:2-3, 2:2-4. To the human complaint against injustice, God promises a day of justice.
2 Tim 1:6-8,13-14. Like his teacher Paul, Timothy must make sacrifices for the Gospel.
Lk 17:5-10. “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed..” we could do great things.
First Reading: Habbakuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see wrong-doing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.
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.
Second Reading: 2 Timothy 1:6ff
For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God.
Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.
Gospel: Luke 17:5-10
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'”
Lord, increase our Faith
“Lord increase our faith,” the apostles asked Jesus. Elsewhere they requested, “Lord teach us how to pray” (Lk 11:1). In essence the two requests were the same. For to pray is to focus the heart on God, to love and trust God, to have faith in God’s concern for us. Every prayer is an act of faith in God, and conversely every we turn to God in faith, we are praying. It is no more possible to have faith without prayer than to swim without water. But we must try to pray to God in the right spirit. For often we are trying to bring God around to our way of thinking rather than putting our thoughts under God’s guidance.
Sometimes perhaps, we regard prayer as a kind of magical last resort, worth a try when all else fails. There is a story about a lawyer walking along a street with a friend who was something of a scholar. When they came to a ladder leaning over the sidewalk and against a house which was being painted, the friend refused to pass under it. “Surely you don’t believe in that superstition, said the lawyer. “No, I don’t exactly believe in it,” was the reply, “but I never waste a chance of avoiding an accident.” Well, maybe that’s how some of us approach prayer. We don’t strongly believe in it, but we admit the possibility that it might work, as a last resort. So we could join in that request, “Lord, increase our faith; Lord, teach us how to pray.”
Jesus did not just teach his friends how to pray, he showed them how, bhis own y example. Never did any human being pray as he did. Even in the middle of a sermon he would turn to God and address him as Father. Early in the morning he would steal away to the hillside, his favourite place for quiet prayer. It was his custom, whenever he visited Jerusalem, to pray at night in the Garden of Gethsemane, so his being there on the night of his arrest was not unusual. On that occasion we know that “being in anguish he prayed the longer.” What he prayed that night is clearly reported. “Father, if it is your will, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will, not mine be done” (Lk 22:42f). Well, the Father did not take away the cup of suffering from Jesus. But by embracing the will of God, something greater was to follow for Jesus – his resurrection from the dead. “Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain” (Jn 12:24).
The letter to the Hebrews sums it up: “During his life on earth, he offered prayer and petition, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to raise him from the dead, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard.” May God grant that our prayer may be heard also, and that being guided through life by the spirit of Jesus we may be in his company for ever in heaven.
If they could see me now
If they could see me now – I’ve often found myself wondering what my parents or friends would think of me if they were present at this or that encounter, whether generous or mean. Many feel this need to be seen by others – especially for appreciation or praise. It can reach the stage when no worthy action is done for its own sake; unless there’s an audience of some kind to give us credit, we hardly think it worthwhile. How easy it is to dress up things with a superficial cosmetic of virtue, “in order to be seen by men?” Yet only God sees the heart and knows the motive.
Certainly the opinions of others matter. But what counts in the long run is how our God sees us – not mere “opinion,” but God’s unerring vision, compassionate yet total. Nothing compares with that judgment. The basic question is this: have you been faithful in serving? Because of fidelity, the righteous will live. Life in God’s friendship, the state of grace, does not depend on social stature or reputation, but on a secret, inner quality. As St. Paul says, one cannot even fully judge oneself. Upon this profound question of righteousness, we can only trust in God’s mercy, while making an honest effort to serve Him. Then the principle will apply: for the one who loves God, all things work together unto good.
Unprofitable servants? A better word might be ordinary. The servants had done their duty, which was what could be expected of them. Too often we Christians take a casual attitude towards the service of God. We treat prayer as a casual option, the commandments as a burden and restriction to be periodically neglected, and works of charity as a rare event for which should expect congratulations. But if we take the words of Christ to heart, we would regard all these things as normal service. The standards he sets are much higher than those we habitually live by. What a new complexion things would have if we all became willing servants towards God, doing each ordinary thing according to His will.
But who will get us started? If I decided to do things simply for God’s approval, would I not be exploited and despised by others? So, while I’m taken by the ideal, I won’t commit until others adopt the same spirit of social responsibility. The rat-race is nobody’s fault, and yet it’s everybody’s. The change to a new spirit of mutual service can only begin when individuals embrace this ideal for its own sake. “Ask not what your country can do for you…
Ultimately, this is the way to salvation. The just person shall live by fidelity. When all of life’s days have been lived, and the Master comes to judge our individual performance, only those who have given generous service will feel at home in his company. And then we will realize that this was the right way to live in God’s sight “Well done good and faithful servant,” God will say; and we will answer simply it was no more than our duty.”