Sunday, October 6, 2013

Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed


                                    27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
                                  



Today's first reading from the Book of the Prophet Habakkuk could well have been written in our own time. His words are the words of a desperate man surrounded by a world full of danger. Look at the words he uses--violence, ruin, misery, destruction, clamorous discord. We only have to glance at the headlines in our daily newspapers to see the same words. Even the fictional shows on television or in the movies are full of destruction and violence.

It makes us want to cry our to God to stop it, to put an end to the suffering of humankind. For others, it makes them even doubt the existence of a God of Love. Nevertheless, the ancient prophet Habakkuk had a vision of a time of peace and happiness. He says, "the just one, because of his faith, shall live."

Isn't it interesting that today's gospel account is also about faith. All this year as we have been reading St. Luke's account of our Lord's journey to Jerusalem, the evangelist has been talking about faith. In today's reading the apostles ask our Lord to "Increase our faith." His answer is surprising. He says,

            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.

 Jesus knew that the mustard seed was the smallest of seeds and so he was telling the apostles and us that even the tiniest bit of faith was more than enough. We really need to look for something else. He then reminds them about how most people would treat a servant.

Few of the apostles had servants and few of us have servants today. Nevertheless, we all expect good service from those we deal with especially from those we pay. When we go out to dinner, we expect good service from the wait staff. When we go shopping, we expect to be waited on courteously and efficiently? We expect tradesmen to arrive at our homes on time and to do good work. We expect our financial advisors to give good and honest advice. We expect our doctors to be there when we need them. When all these people do their work, won't they be compensated?

Our Lord is telling us not to worry about faith but to serve one another.

            So should it be with you.
            When you have done all you have been commanded,
            say, 'We are unprofitable servants;
            we have done what we were obliged to do.'

What commandments did Jesus have in mind. We know that He spoke of two great commandments--To love the Lord, your God, with all your being, and to love your neighbor as yourself." But to be more specific, let's look at the famous Ten Commandments.

The first three deal with the love, and gratitude, and respect we all owe to our Maker, and they certainly include keeping holy the Lord's day. The rest deal with our relationship with our neighbor. This is what we are commanded to do.

We must honor our father and mother. This command is so important for children, teens, and young adults but it only increases in importance as our parents age and become dependent on us. We must not kill, but Jesus told us that anger was just as bad. Not only  should we not commit adultery, we shouldn't even think of it. Stealing is out of the question but this would also include loafing on the job when we should be working. How many hours do we spend each workday playing Solitaire on the computer or sending personal or junk emails?

The commandment about bearing false witness would also cover all forms of lying. Lying breaks down the bonds of trust between our friends, our neighbors, and our associates at work. When it is practiced by politicians, it creates a general distrust in government that is like a cancer in society. Finally, we are told not to covet or desire our neighbor's spouse or possessions. Jealousy, lust, and envy will destroy us and our neighbor.

In other words our daily work and the way in which we do it is our faith. We must live our faith. Whatever our station in life, we have been put here for a reason. St. Luke continually talks about service and stewardship.

Today's second reading from St. Paul's letter to Timothy is addressed to Timothy as a priest and bishop but it is also addressed to all of us. It is good advice as we practice our faith. When Timothy was ordained, he received the same Spirit that we all received at Confirmation.

            For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
            but rather of power and love and self-control.

Life will not be easy and will not ever get easier. The violence, destruction, and ruin that Habakkuk saw will always be with us in one form or another. But Paul, himself in prison for his Faith and about to suffer execution, tells Timothy to "bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God."

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Reading 1. Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2: 2-4
Reading II. 2 Timothy 1: 6-8, 13-14
Gospel. Luke 17:5-10 (Increase our faith).

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