Sunday: Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time Date: October 6, 2013 Year: C The readings: [Hab. 1:2-3; 2:2-4; 2 Tim 1:6-8, 13-14; Lk. 17:5-10] The message: Unselfish faith. Prepared by: Catholic Doors Ministry Total words: 1713
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Good morning my brothers and sisters in Christ. Recently, I was reading a statement about the condition of the world. It stated:
"Ours is a time of religious decay; the permanent vitality of religion has been lost, the mass of the people have become either superstitious or credulous or indifferent to religion; the elite of society are agnostic or sceptical; the political leaders are hypocrites; the youth are in open conflict with established society and with the authority of the past; people are experimenting with eastern religions and techniques of meditation. The majority of mankind is affected by the decay of the times."
Does this sound familiar? While many may think that these words were written yesterday or possibly ten years ago, they are a quote from the "Annals of Tacitus (VI,7)." These words were written around 32-37 A.D., nearly two thousands years ago. How little society has changed for those who live without faith.
When a believer holds to the standard of sound teaching that he has heard from the Gospel of Christ, in the faith and love that are in Jesus, [2 Tim. 1:13] the vitality of his religion is not lost. He does not become superstitious, credulous or indifferent to his living faith in Christ. He is not agnostic or sceptical. He is not a hypocrite in what he does and in what he says. Nor is he in conflict with the established society and its authority. Being secured in his living faith in Christ, he does not need to experience with eastern religions and techniques of meditation. For he knows that the fullness of the truth is found in the Lord Jesus Christ.
During today's First Reading, we heard the prophet Habakkuk calling out to the Lord. Around 626 B.C., Habakkuk called out to the Lord because of the violence that surrounded him. Destruction, violence, strife, contention, these had become the norm of the day. Habakkuk was frustrated because the Lord was not taking control of the situation. He complained that the Lord God would not save the people. Does this sound familiar? Why did the Lord not take control of the situation? It is because He has given every human being a free will to choose right from wrong. God does not control the people. He does not force them to act against their free will.
As we sometimes have difficulty understanding why the Lord Jesus tolerates the wicked, Habakkuk had the same difficulty. Why Lord? Why do You let these things happen? Why do you permit misery... destruction... discord... conflicts...?
Responding to Habakkuk's cry to Heaven, the Lord God answered, "Write this vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it." [Hab. 2:2]
Why did the Lord tell Habakkuk to write the vision? We find that answer in the Book of Isaiah where God says, "Go now, write it before them on a tablet, and inscribe it in a book, so that it may be for the time to come as a witness forever." [Is. 30:8] The Words of the Lord were not meant for Habakkuk alone. They had two other purposes. They were intended as a prophecy to be read in the future when its fulfillment had come to pass. And they were meant to be written large enough so that the runner may read the exact Words of God when he delivers them to the people.
In His message, God said, "For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay." [Hab. 2:3] In other words, God was saying, "Wait patiently for the last age that will come in about 600 years from now." The last age, or the end, is the time in which we now live. It is the time that had its beginning when Jesus instituted the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church on earth, the final day being when He gloriously returns with His angels on the last day of this world.
Then God concluded by saying, "Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith." [Hab. 2:4] In other words, the man who is rash, he has no integrity. The wicked will come to a terrible end. But those who obey the commandments of God, they will live a long life. [Prov. 3:1-2] "The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short. The hope of the righteous ends in gladness, but the expectation of the wicked comes to nothing." [Prov. 10:27-8]
God said, "The righteous live by their faith." [Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38] The Words of God summarize the whole vision. What does it mean that the righteous will live by their faith? Does it mean that faith alone is sufficient for salvation? In the Letter of James, it states, "Faith without works is dead." [Jas. 2:26] "Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." [Jas. 2:17]
"These words, "The righteous live by their faith," were written in Hebrew. While there are a number of words in the Hebrew language that mean "faith," in this case, the translation came from the Hebrew word "emunah." This is a word that describes a just man, one who is faithful, loyal and steadfast, This Hebrew word is found in the Book of Exodus where it refers to the uplifted hands of Moses that were "steady." [Ex. 17:12] This same word is also found in 2 Kings where it refers to the men who could be entrusted with money. [2 Kgs. 12:15] The word "faith" as applied in the Book of Habakkuk refers to a living faith, a faith with actions, a faith with works. Therefore, it can only be concluded that faith without works is indeed dead.
"Faith is compounded of belief and love as well as of trust and confidence amid trials and tribulations." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary; page 297, # 39, 4b.)
Continuing on the subject of living faith, during today's Second Reading, Paul said to Timothy, "Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." [2 Tim. 1:13] In other words, in his preaching and personal conduct, Timothy was called to keep the truths that he had learned from Paul. How was Timothy called to keep the truth? In the faith and love that are in Jesus Christ. Why faith and love? Because faith and love cannot be separated.
Faith, hope and charity (love) are theological virtues. "They are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being." [Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1813]
Love is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It cannot be separated from "joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control," [Gal. 5:22; NRSV] "modesty and chastity." (Gal. 5:22; Latin Vulgate)
"We are called to love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love." [1 Jn. 4:7-8]
How do we manifest our love towards others? First of all, in fulfillment of the commitment that we have made when we received the Sacrament of Baptism, we are called to evangelize to others through our holy words and our actions. We are called to be lights in the world so other may be drawn to Jesus Christ.
During today's Gospel Reading, we heard the apostles ask Jesus, "Increase our faith!" After explaining the power of faith that could move the mulberry tree, Jesus spoke of the slave. Why speak of the slave? Is there a connection here? Yes, there is!
Our faith is increased by our works that are manifested by the power of the Holy Spirit! Faith is increased by serving others, not by being served. Faith is increased when we manifest our love towards others, our family, friends and strangers. When we isolate ourselves from the world, we lose our faith.
Our faith increases when we grow in servitude. Why? Because in serving others, we become more in the likeness of Jesus who served when He washed the feet of His apostles. [Jn. 13:15] As we grow closer to Jesus in our daily personal relationship, we come to know His Divine Presence, His love, His mercy, etc... all of this leading towards unshakable faith.
True faith is unselfish. Living faith is unselfish faith. It seeks to give rather than receive. It seeks to obey God, not "me, I and myself." Unselfish faith is humble, not full of pride. It admits that "We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done." [Lk. 17:10]
My brothers and sisters, a month ago, the world saw the fruit of those who had no living faith in Christ, mass destruction, violence, suicides, all what opposes the true love of God. You can be assured that those who were involved with these evil doers, they shall come to nothing... an eternal life of suffering in Hell. For the wrath of God will not escape the judgment of those who terrorize the innocent.
As we reflect upon these words, let us review what kind of faith that we have. Let us ask ourselves, "Do I have unselfish faith that will draw me to the loving heart of Jesus?" O, "Do I have a faith that places a barrier between Jesus and myself?" If there is a barrier that prevents you from growing in the love of Jesus, ask Jesus to remove it so you may blossom in your faith.
As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us remember those who are in need of the gift of faith so that they may grow in the love of Jesus.
"'O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you 'Violence!' and you will not save? Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.
Then the Lord answered me and said: 'Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous lives by their faith." [Hab. 1:2-3; 2:2-4]
"Beloved: I remind you, Timothy, to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God.
Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us." [2 Tim 1:6-8, 13-14]
"The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith!' The Lord replied, 'If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.
Who among you would say to your slave who has just come from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here at once and take your place at the table? Would you not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'" [Lk. 17:5-10]