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27th SUNDAY -C- October 6, 2013

Gospel Lk 17:5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith."
The Lord replied,
"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.

"Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
'Come here immediately and take your place at table'?
Would he not rather say to him,
'Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished'?
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
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.'"


Reflecting & Living God’s Words

27th SUNDAY -C- October 6, 2013
Lk 17:5-10

- In today’s Gospel, Jesus explained to his disciples the effect of true faith when they asked Him to increase their faith. When we truly have faith, then even if it is small in size it would still have great result. True faith originates from the mind, it prompts and urges a person to take actions despite the harsh consequences, sacrifices or sufferings that would result from it. A person with true faith can do this because this energy does not come from his or her own weak physical body, but it comes from God. Therefore, we don’t have true faith yet, if with or without it, does not make a different in our lives. Our lives will change for the better with the true faith we have.

1- What is true faith?
2- Base on what evidence, do you think you have true faith?

Living God’s Words this week:
- Say the prayer “we believe” to pray to God to strengthen our faith.

- During Mass, when the priest proclaims the Body and Blood of Christ, say: “Dear God, You are my God.”

- Dear God, in our daily lives, we are the weak who lack faith in You. Please strengthen the true faith in us, so that we can confirm this faith with our actions and not just with words and talks, so that others can see You in us. Amen.


27th SUNDAY -C- October 6, 2013

(Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4; Psalm 95; 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14; Luke 17:5-10)

The prophet Habakkuk lived during the time the Babylonian Empire was the dominant world power and was breathing down the neck of Judah. The tyrant Jehoiakim was king of Judah. He persecuted the prophets, enslaved the people and allowed idolatry in the land. Could things be any more discouraging for people trying to trust and be faithful to God?

Habakkuk is a unique prophet. He doesn’t address the people but, in this short work of three chapters, he speaks a lament to God. The opening lines sum it up, "How long, O Lord?" The prophet sees violence, religious strife and chaos in the land. Aren’t they supposed to be God’s people? Where is God in such dire circumstances? What’s taking God so long to come to help? Certainly God doesn’t want such suffering and destruction. "How long, O Lord?"

Habakkuk wrote 600 years before Christ. But is his prayer not our prayer as well? Our Pope called for fasting and prayer for Syria, so tired and distressed are we as we watch TV images of still more refugees streaming into Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Two million displaced people! "How long, O Lord?" We pray for peace, yet there is war.

And what about our nation? We celebrated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, yet there is still racism in our land. "How long, O Lord?" We pray for a teenager in our family who is schizophrenic and refuses to take his medications. The family is exhausted and frightened for him. "How long, O Lord?" We pray for a job and when we go for interviews we are told we’re too old. But we need work. "How long, O Lord?" With Habakkuk, we cry out "Violence!" Why does God not intervene? We pray and pray and, even though we already know it, we learn again: prayer, even by good people, doesn’t guarantee quick results or a specific answer.

Things will only get worse for Judah. Having rejected God and God’s ways they will have to deal with the violence that the invading Babylonians will bring upon them. Since Judah will not serve God, it will have to bow down before Babylon’s god.

With all of these reasons to lose faith and to look elsewhere for help, Habakkuk continues to call out to God. Persistent prayer and trust is not only Habakkuk’s way with God, but he is also an example to those who accept his message. In fact, he is told to write it large enough so that it can be read even by those rushing by.

God tells Habakkuk the people ought to wait and, despite their misery, to trust that God will bring to completion what God has planned. There will be a time when people will live according to God’s order. Meanwhile, they will have to wait and hope that day "will surely come, and it will not be late." That time of fulfillment will come with the message which Jesus will announce upon his arrival.

Habakkuk’s prayer is bold and forthright. He cries out asking what it would take for God to do something. Some people think our prayers are supposed to be "proper" and appropriately worded. But the Psalms and the prophets are not afraid to raise a voice of complaint to God and they give us the courage to do the same. Faith is the foundation of our covenanted relationship with God. It enables us to be steadfast in troubled times and nourishes the hope that helps us wait with anticipation for God to act.

Paul gives us further insight. In our troubles we have the "help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us." He encourages us to "stir into flame the gift of God" we have received. The sufferings of the early Christians would cause them to cry out, like Habakkuk, "How long, O Lord?" What Jesus foretold, came to pass. Those who followed him would have to take up and bear the cross that comes as a consequence of discipleship. What would strengthen the church, Paul recommends, is to hear "the sound message." Holding to the gospel, despite the consequent sufferings, would require strength from the Spirit which we, as a community, pray for at this Mass."

The gospel picks up on the long-suffering prayer of Habakkuk. It sounds like the apostles are feeling the strain of their vocation. Instead of asking, "How long, O Lord," they asked Jesus for what we also need when we are at our limits, "Increase our faith."

The small community of believers gathered around Jesus. They must be experiencing trials and uncertainties for their prayer is brief and to the point, "Increase our faith." But they are asking for the wrong thing. They already have the faith – and it is enough. They don’t need the latest upgrade, or a bigger product. A mustard seed of faith is enough: it’s the quality, not the quantity that makes the difference. Hence, the absurd example: a speck of faith is enough to rip up the mulberry tree, notorious for its deep roots. (Mulberry trees were not planted near cisterns because their strong roots would break down the cistern’s walls.)

The parable Jesus gives next seems to be a warning to the disciples not to presume God owes us a reward for what we do. We work hard in our efforts to live good lives and do good for others. We can’t claim a reward for that; it’s what the faith we have been given calls and enables us to do. We do what is expected of us as disciples and we leave the results in God’s hands. God, working through us, will accomplish God’s purposes. We are not owed anything by God.

When we disciples do what we are supposed to do the credit is not ours, because our efforts come as a result of the gift we have received. No matter how great our deeds, or how seeming-ordinary they are, all comes by way of gift. We have been given enough faith to overcome insurmountable obstacles, or to meet the daily challenges of faithful discipleship, over and over again, until the Master returns.

Fr. Jude Siciliano, OP