27th Sunday in Ordinary Time. October 6, 2013
Habakkuk 1:2-3;2:2-4; 2Tim 1:6-8; 13-14
“The just one, because of his faith, shall live”
The Prophet Habakkuk in today’s First Reading speaks for many of us who have prayed hard, striven to serve the Lord faithfully and still failed to see divine intervention in our lives’ crises. This prophet, writing in 597 BC before the Babylonian invasion of Judah and destruction of Jerusalem, laments about the “violence,” the lawlessness, the heartless oppression of the poor by the rich, and the anarchy that reigned in the country then. He had served faithfully and prayed fervently but, in his words, “God did not listen or intervene.” On the contrary, he laments that God let him see only “misery,” “violence,” and “destruction.” However, God responds by calling the frustrated prophet to surrender to His divine plan and trust in His promise of a brighter future, knowing that this plan will be fulfilled in God’s own way and in God’s own time. Nothing can hinder God’s purpose once it’s time for fulfillment has come. The prophet is called to continue in his work and prayer while surrendering to this revealed divine plan and divine timing “even if it delays.” What God revealed to Him will “surely come to pass; it will not be late.” The just one will live by his faith because in addition to prayer and faithful service, there is complete surrender to the divine plan and timing.
This shows us that our faith will be alive and life-giving only when it involves authentic prayer, selfless service of God in others and surrender to God’s purpose and timing in our lives. Today’s Gospel shows us the disciples praying to Jesus saying “Increase our faith.” Jesus does not refuse their request but shows them that more is needed than prayers alone. Jesus replies by stating that a tiny faith, one small as a mustard seed, can do great things, like make a mulberry tree be replanted in the sea. In these words, Jesus calls them to make use of their faith no matter how small it may be. But even then, there must also be complete surrender to what God offers for faithful service. They are to serve God with complete surrender, saying, after doing all that was commanded them, “We are unprofitable servants.” They will be unprofitable servants because they choose to surrender to the divine plan and timing without any claim to recompense or reward. They are not to insist on the time or nature of their reward. God, who cannot be outdone in generosity, rewards as and when He deems fit.
Why is this complete surrender of all that we have and are to the divine plan essential for a life-giving faith? Why is it not enough to only pray to God and serve others? The Catechism of the Catholic Church #150 teaches us that “Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed…It is right and just to entrust oneself wholly to God and to believe absolutely in what He says.” This personal entrusting of oneself and all that one has to God is the first necessity of God if we ever hope to keep His words and serve Him faithfully. Our faith will lack vitality if this complete giving of self to God is lacking.
It is interesting to note that St. Paul’s letter to Timothy in the Second Reading is written from captivity where he is awaiting his death, a “prisoner for the Lord’s sake.” St. Paul, that faithful servant of the Lord Jesus, shows us that necessary complete surrender as he writes to encourage Timothy to “stir into flame the gift of God” i.e. the Holy Spirit received when St. Paul laid hands on the young Timothy. With the “aid of the Holy Spirit dwelling within him,” Timothy is to give fearless testimony to God and surrender Himself to whatever God wills for him. He must be ready for all things, even being ready to “bear his own share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” Like St. Paul, Timothy’s life of service preaching the word must be complemented by surrender to God’s timing and mysterious purpose.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, at Baptism, we received the gift of faith. St. Paul reminds us that the Holy Spirit that bestows this gift of faith on us “is not a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” But this faith can become dead as dead can be for so many reasons. Before we say that we do not have faith, let us consider what can take life out of our faith. First, our faith deadens when we fail to pray for the gift of faith. Like the disciples, we too must call out persistently, “Lord, increase our faith.” Faith is a grace and God gives this only to those who ask for it. Secondly, our faith is weakened when we fail to make use of this faith in loving service of God and neighbor. When we try to live for ourselves or refuse to give witness to Christ before others for whatever reasons, we quench the power of this faith to give us life. Lastly, when we refuse to surrender to God, when we choose to live as our own masters, demanding from God that He answers our prayers here and now, we risk our faith in Him. A complete faith capable of giving life is one that leads us to pray always and fervently, moves us to serve others selflessly and compels us to surrender all things to God’s time and purpose in life.
The faith of the Blessed Virgin Mary is for us a perfect example of the faith that alone gives life. Her words of surrender to the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me as you will” is an example of her complete surrender to God even when the divine purpose and timing was not clear for her. She also did not keep the light of faith for herself as she traveled with haste to visit Elizabeth her relative and to share with her God’s presence in this world, the fruit of her faith in God. She alone took to intercede for the wedding couple at the wedding feast of Cana when they ran out of wine. In all these, she did not insist or demand any reward or recompense from God. She surrendered herself unreservedly to the divine timing and generosity. She lived by this faith because such faith nourished her life within.
Jesus Christ whom we encounter in Holy Communion wishes to mold our hearts like His own. He who even prayed for those who crucified Him on the Cross wants us to pray always like He did. He who served to the point of giving His own life as a ransom for them desires that we too serve others selflessly. Lastly, He who surrendered Himself to the Father even to the point of death on the Cross calls us to imitate His complete surrender to the Father. It is such a life like that of Christ that gives us a share in this life.
If we want to have this life in us and to be channels of this life in others, let us also pray, serve and surrender all to Him. Whether our petitions are granted or not, only such a faith can be life-giving to us and to others.
Glory to Jesus!!!!! Honor to Mary!!!!!