Readings: Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4 2; Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14; Lk 17:5-10
Patience is a Virtue Worth Cultivating.
1. Today’s first reading is taken from the book of Habakkuk, believed to have been written in the mid-to-late 7th century BC, not long before the Babylonians’ siege and capture of Jerusalem in 586 BC. The prophet was troubled by the violence and cruelty of the Babylonians. He wondered why the Lord was silent. “So why are you silent while they destroy people who are more righteous than they?” (1:13). But the Lord told him to be patient, that he would act in his own time; meanwhile, he urged him to have Faith. “Those who are righteous will live because they are faithful to God.”(2:4). Faith and trust go hand in hand. It is not as if God is unaware of the plight of his people, but we must trust him to act in his own time. We must keep to our lane and allow God to operate in his. Yes, we sometimes feel like Habakkuk. We are frustrated and disillusioned amid destruction and bloodshed in our lands. When we hear of kidnapping, persecution and the killing of Christians during Mass or Church services, and other acts of violence committed inside the church, we wonder if God cares about us. It seems as if God has allowed us to kill and maim each other as we please. Our Faith is tested, if not shaken, in the face of so much hatred and disregard for one another, and we feel like crying out with Habakkuk, “How long, O Lord? I cry for help, but you do not listen! I cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not intervene.”
2. But God tells us to be faithful. In other words, He wants us to have Faith. Faith is defined as “the realization of what is hoped for, and evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1). The Catechism of the Catholic Church, on the other hand, notes that “Faith is both a gift of God and a human act in response to God. In Faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace.” We can obey God because we cooperate with His grace. Our Faith makes us ready and willing to do God’s will. In the Gospel, the apostles asked Jesus to increase their Faith. To answer their request, Christ warned them against being the cause of scandal or being a stumbling block for others. He acknowledged that it was impossible to construct a world without temptations, but woe to that man who taught another to sin or took away another’s innocence; “So watch what you do!” Then Jesus speaks of the necessity of forgiveness in the life of Christians. He tells them to forgive seven times. The difficulty of putting this teaching into practice made the apostles ask for an increase in Faith. Without Faith and grace, it is impossible to obey God’s command or put his teaching into practice. Jesus said, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” Faith is the most powerful force the world has ever known. If we have Faith, we can do the impossible. Our Faith depends not on the size or quantity but on quality and effectiveness. With Faith, the impossible becomes possible. If we approach any task with the belief that it cannot be done, it will probably not be done; but if we come to it saying, “It must be done,” the chances are that it will be done.
3. Faith is not jumping to conclusions; it is concluding to jump into the arms of God our Father, who loves us unconditionally. It is accepting that Jesus is the Son of God and believing in the words he spoke and in his power. It is “By this faith a just man lives.” (Gal. 3:11). This is the Faith that can draw poison from every grief, take the sting from every loss, and quench the fire of every pain. This Faith can be compared, as Jesus does, to a “tiny mustard seed.” Because the power of the seed does not depend on its size but on the life hidden within itself, the power of our Faith does not depend on its quantity but on its quality. Faith and trust in the power of God can transform our lives and enable us to struggle against sins in ourselves and avoid causing scandal in others. It will make it possible to forgive all the hurts done to us and help us wait on God to act on our behalf. Our Faith must be living, practical, and trustworthy. It is formed by our baptism, making it possible to do everything for God and not for ourselves. It is about God and not me. God must increase while I decrease. Yes, I am only an unprofitable servant; I have done what I was obliged to do and nothing more.
4. Paul reminds Timothy in the second reading not to forget the gifts of the Holy Spirit he received when he was ordained a minister. “I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” (2 Tim. 1:6-7). Timothy should not be intimidated by the hardships, opposition, and difficulties he encountered in Ephesus. These should not deter or dampen his spirit but strengthen his Faith to remain strong and resolute in his mission. The apostles, too, sensed the difficulties of their mission and so cried out for an increase of Faith.
5. Following in the footsteps of Christ is never easy! It was not easy for Christ to do His Father’s will either. But Jesus urged us to have strong Faith. If our Faith is strong, we should be afraid of nothing. “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.” (Ps. 125:1). Christians must fight the good fight and yet be humble enough to say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what our duty was.” Our baptism incorporates us into the life of Christ and enables us to carry out our Christian duties without seeking reward. In facing difficulties, violence, persecution, and tribulation, we must wait on the Lord. “I waited patiently for the Lord’s help; then he listened to me and heard my cry. He pulled me out of a dangerous pit, out of the deadly quicksand. He set me safely on a rock and made me secure.” (Ps. 40:1-2). May we be committed to a life of prayer, our baptismal vows, and our call to be missionary disciples. May God increase our Faith so that we may not be intimidated by the troubles of this world. Amen.
Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP