11Aug 11 August. Saturday, Week 18

1st Reading: Habakkuk (1:12–2:4)

The prophet questions God and learns that the just will live by faith

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.

Responsorial (Ps 9)

R./: You never forsake those who seek you, O Lord

The Lord sits enthroned forever;
he has set up his throne for judgment.
He judges the world with justice;
he governs the peoples with equity. (R./)

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of distress.
They trust in you who cherish your name,
for you forsake not those who seek you, O Lord. (R./)

Sing praise to the Lord enthroned in Zion;
proclaim his mighty deeds among the nations;
For the One who restores justice has remembered;
he has not forgotten the cry of the poor. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew (17:14-20)

Jesus casts out demons by the power of prayer

A man came up to Jesus, 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.”


The miraculous and the routine

Today’s texts link faith with trust, and miracles with life’s normal routine. A balanced spirituality will take account of both. The prophet Habakkuk is distressed by God’s apparent indifference to injustice on this earth, “Why do you look on the treacherous, and are silent?” God can tolerate these challenges and yet remain silent. God gives no explanation why the more-wicked Babylonians are allowed to oppress the less-wicked Jerusalemites.

The full impact of trustful belief appears in the Gospel, where faith cures the sick, drives out demons and moves mountains. This is a metaphor to emphasise Jesus’ teaching that nothing is impossible if only one has faith. He reminds us that our life is involved in a struggle between forces of good and evil. We are called to daily expressions of faith, a faith that prompts us even to question God like Habakkuk, yet nonetheless a faith that reaches beyond human expectations in hope of a better world to come.

Too little faith

Jesus rebukes his disciples for their little faith. He doesn’t say that they have no faith but just that they have little faith. They had failed in their efforts to do something he had sent them to do, to heal a sick child. Jesus attributes their failure to their little faith. We can readily identify with the disciples. We think of ourselves as people of faith but we sense that our faith is not all that strong. We don’t trust the Lord enough. We have the gospel promise that if our faith was as small even as a mustard seed we could move mountains. Jesus wants his disciples to grow in faith; it is what he wants for all of us. In response to that desire of Jesus, we could make our own the prayer of the father of the sick child, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”

(Saint Clare, virgin)

Chiara Offreduccio (1194-1253) was one of the first followers and helpers of Saint Francis of Assisi. She founded the Order of Poor Ladies, a religious order for women in the Franciscan tradition, and wrote their Rule of Life, the first monastic rule known to have been written by a woman. Following her death, the order she founded was renamed in her honor as the Order of Saint Clare, known today as the Poor Clares.

One Response

  1. Brian Fahy

    When people came to Alphonsus Ligouri wanting to join his new missionary congregation Alphonsus would say to them, ‘Do not come here unless you truly desire to be a saint.’ We have trivialised this idea of sainthood by making it less than human, less than realistic, and more like pious plaster statues. But Alphonsus knew what he was talking about.

    To be holy as God our Father is holy means to become wholesome in the fullness of our humanity, to grow into a completeness of life, to grow into all grace. Human wellbeing is about this wholesome spiritual development of our very self, a truly loving and happy person. Unhappiness is sometimes a sign of our diseased selfishness. Illness can bring us low but in wanting to be well again we come to understand that being well means being holy.

    The healing power that Jesus imparts to us is not only about physical wellbeing – we are more than the physical! Our sicknesses are not just those of the body that we can see! We are spiritual beings on our way to the Father of all. Faith is spiritual contact with God and in that contact comes our healing. If you really want to be well then you must truly want to be a saint. Be ambitious.

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