(Saint Bernardine’s Church, Regents Park: Saturday 6pm; Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Park Ridge: Sunday 8am)
5/6 October 2013
(Readings: Hab 1:2-3; 2:2-24; Ps 94; 2 Tim 1:6-8, 13-14; Lk 17:5-10)
It takes great faith to persevere in times of deep suffering and affliction; it takes faith not to lose hope in God. The beginning of the first reading is a lament to the Lord in such a time of affliction. The one complaining to the Lord speaks of oppression, injustice, tyranny, outrage, violence, contention and discord. The Lord responds by saying that the upright person will live by their faithfulness. As difficult as what we see around us might be, ultimately the Lord will see a way through for us when we stay with him. His promises – of goodness and life – will come true. To have faith – or to be faithful – is ultimately an act of trust and self-surrender. “In faith, I throw myself on God as my hope, my security, my happiness … [my] heart reaches out in recognition of the presence of the absolute Good that will satisfy it for ever” (1).
In the Gospel, the apostles ask the Lord to increase their faith. In response, the Lord teaches them about the amazing possibilities when they live their lives in faith. If we truly lived as if God is all-powerful, as if God is the beginning and end of everything, we would see more readily the power of God at work. “Faith grows when we act from faith and live in faith” (2) Faith – our complete trust in God and surrender to God – touches the heart of Jesus, the heart of God. We think of Mary’s faith at the wedding feast of Cana that Jesus would do something to fix the situation: her faith led to the miracle. We think of the Canaanite woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer to her pleas with Jesus for the cure of her daughter, how her faith led to Jesus curing her daughter. We think of the faith of the epilectic boy’s father which led to Jesus curing that child.
To live in faith is to try to look at the world as God sees it – to try to look at the world through the eyes of God. It is also to realize that God is King of everything today, just as He was fifty years ago; as He was at the first moment of creation, and as He will be at the end of time.
The upright person lives by faithfulness. We are called to remain close to the Lord always: trusting God, and surrendering to Him in all things.
The last part of the Gospel today has Jesus teaching about the attitude that we should have as servants of God. It can be a real trap to get caught up in seeking recognition for what we do; to look for praise, even admiration. Or we can be given to thinking that everything we do needs to be fun-filled, exiting, glamorous, and obviously fulfilling. But we need to realize too that for the most part, our lives have a mundane character … we do our daily tasks and chores, we fulfil our duties in our families and at work and in society, we care for loved ones and friends. We shouldn’t be looking for praise. If we truly have faith then we realize that everything we have comes from God as a gift, and even to serve others and fulfil our duties is a grace, a gift from God. And so, they are not so much reasons to be proud, but reasons to give thanks to God for his goodness in allowing us to do these things.
In the parable Jesus tells, he says that after we have done our work we shouldn’t be looking for our reward. Rather, we should say, “I am merely a servant, and I have done no more than my duty.” Everything I have done is what I should have done. I thank God for allowing me to do it, and giving me the grace to do it. We can well imagine how many great things would be accomplished by God’s people if we did our service not caring if we were praised for it or not, but simply out of love; believing that God will achieve his purposes through us.
The Word of God to us today challenges us to be people of faith: to see that the world is God’s, that God is in charge, that everything we have comes from God: that everything given to us is grace. To be people of faith is to be open to the power of God in everything, and to allow that power to work in and through us.
May the words of Habakkuk be true of us: The upright person will live by his faithfulness.
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(1) Aidan Nichols, Year of the Lord’s Favour: A Homiliary for the Roman Liturgy, Volume 3: The Temporal Cycle, Sundays through the Year. Balwyn, Freedom, 2012, p. 137.
(2) 365 Days with the Lord: The Year of Faith, 2013.