27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
27th Sunday / Ordinary / C
October 1-2, 2016
St. Thomas Aquinas, Ames, Iowa
Fr. Jon Seda
In one of my rooms in my home, I have a prayer corner, which is basically an icon of Jesus and a chair for me. It is there that the Lord and I have our talks, and I am honest and open with him. Many times I speak to him of gratitude, of the ways I am surprised and uplifted by graced moments in my day. But sometimes when I am discouraged, the ugly judgemental side of me comes out in our conversations. Like Habakkuk in the first reading, I have some tough questions for the Lord.
Habakkuk lived in the days right before the Babylonians came and destroyed Jerusalem, and he saw it coming. Listen again to his complaint: "How long, O Lord? I cry for help, but you do not listen. I see violence, but you do not intervene." Some of my prayer is also about violence, the brutal war in Syria, the violence of abortion, the multitude who die of hunger every day.
But most of my questions are more personal, and about how evil seems to prosper today. Perhaps you too have asked questions like this: "Lord, I try to be generous, but I see people with wealth who seem to live only for themselves, and they seem to be happy. Lord, I try to have integrity, but I see people who are promiscuous and use people, and they seem to be having fun. Lord, I try to serve you in your Church, and I see people who ignore you and walk away from the Church, and they seem to be doing just fine. Why, O Lord, why?" In the midst of my pity party, I tell the Lord he is not doing a good job of running this world, and give him some ideas of things he could do better.
The Lord smiles and says to me: Well, thanks for your advice Jon, but you don't need to worry about anyone except yourself. Remember, my ways are not your ways, my thoughts are not your thoughts, and guess what? My kingdom is not your kingdom. I am God, and you are not.
Now God spoke to Habakkuk after his complaint, and in his pain, confusion and despair, the Lord said to him: "The vision still has its time, presses onto fulfillment, and will not disappoint. If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come."
He concludes that the just person lives by faith. Faith here is not some vague intellectual assent, like when someone says, "Oh yah, I believe in God, but it doesn't make any real difference in my life." That is not faith. Biblical faith is a radical trust in the Lord even when we do not understand his ways. It is a surrender of our will to God's will. It is to realize that God is God, and I am not.
In the Gospel, the apostles ask Jesus to "increase our faith." Jesus tells them if they had faith the size of a mustard seed, they could move huge trees. This is not about forestry, but about a transformation of our hearts and finding strength we did not know we had.
In the second reading, St. Paul tells his buddy Timothy to "stir into flame the gift God has given you." I have a real fireplace in my home, which will soon be used again. So i get the image of a fire that is dormant and seems dead, and yet by stirring it up and blowing on it, it comes to life again. The mustard seed of faith planted in us on the day of our Baptism needs to be stirred into flame throughout our lives, or it dies. We do this in daily prayer, with the grace of the Sacraments, and also by living lives of virtue even when evil seems to prosper.
In other words, having faith is about being faithful. Faith is not really about what we feel but what we do. And we get it by doing it.
When we let God be God, we find a freedom in surrender, in stop trying to control everything in our lives and turning it over to God's care. And we find a deep joy that goes far beyond immediate gratification, a deep joy found in being generous, in having integrity, and in staying close the Lord and his Church.
I like the prayer of Habakkuk because it is so honest and so open. I have learned that the Lord is big enough to deal with our pity parties, our complaints and our questions. Let him have it!
And the Lord says to us today what he said to Habakkuk long ago. When you have faith, and when you live faith, relax. Things work out. They always do.