Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – C

Readings: Hab 1:2-3;2:2-4; Ps 95:1-2,6-9; 2 Tim 1:6-8,13-14; Lk 17:5-10

THE JUST WILL LIVE BECAUSE OF THEIR FAITH

  • Diane, a young Christian University student, was home for the summer. She had gone to visit some friends one evening and time passed quickly as each shared their various experiences of the past year.She ended up staying longer than planned, and had to walk home alone. She wasn’t afraid, because it was a small town and she lived only a few blocks away.As she walked along under the tall elm trees, Diane asked “God” to keep her safe from harm and danger. When she reached the alley, which was a short cut to her house, she decided to take it, however, halfway down the alley she noticed a man standing at the end as though he were waiting for her. She became uneasy and began to pray, asking for “God’s” protection. Instantly a comforting feeling of quietness and security wrapped around her, she felt as though someone was walking with her.

    When she reached the end of the alley, she walked right past the man and arrived home safely.The following day, she read in the newspaper that a young girl had been raped in the same alley, just twenty minutes after she had been there. Feeling overwhelmed by this tragedy and the fact that it could have been her, she began to weep. Thanking the Lord for her safety and to help this young woman, she decided to go to the police station. She felt she could recognize the man, so she told them her story. The police asked her if she would be willing to look at a lineup to see if she could identify him. She agreed and immediately pointed out the man she had seen in the alley the night before. When the man was told he had been identified, he immediately broke down and confessed.

    The officer thanked Diane for her bravery and asked if there was anything they could do for her. She asked if they would ask the man one question. Diane was curious as to why he had not attacked her. When the policeman asked him, he answered, “Because she wasn’t alone. She had two tall men walking on either side of her.”

    Moral of the story? Never underestimate the power of Prayer and faith.

  • The amazing story of Charles Blondin, a famous French tightrope walker, is a wonderful illustration of what true faith is.Blondin’s greatest fame came on September 14, 1860, when he became the first person to cross a tightrope stretched 11,000 feet (over a quarter of a mile) across the mighty Niagara Falls. People from both Canada and America came from miles away to see this great feat.

    He walked across, 160 feet above the falls, several times… each time with a different daring feat – once in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, in the dark, and blindfolded. One time he even carried a stove and cooked an omelet in the middle of the rope!A large crowd gathered and the buzz of excitement ran along both sides of the river bank. The crowd “Oohed and Aahed!” as Blondin carefully walked across – one dangerous step after another – pushing a wheelbarrow holding a sack of potatoes.

    Then at one point, he asked for the participation of a volunteer. Upon reaching the other side, the crowd’s applause was louder than the roar of the falls!Blondin suddenly stopped and addressed his audience: “Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?”

    The crowd enthusiastically yelled, “Yes! You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. We believe!”"Okay,” said Blondin, “Who wants to get into the wheelbarrow.”

    As far as the Blondin story goes, no one did at the time!

    This unique story illustrates a real life picture of what faith actually is. The crowd watched these daring feats. They said they believed. But… their actions proved they truly did not believe.

    Similarly, it is one thing for us to say we believe in God. However, it’s true faith when we believe in God and put our faith and trust in his Son, Jesus Christ.

  • In his book, Six Hours One Friday, (pg. 15, Multnohmah Books, 1989) Max Lucado tells the story of how he and his boat survived a hurricane. An old sea man gave Max the advice to take his boat to deep water, drop four anchors off each corner of the boat, and pray that the anchors held. Max survived that storm, but he says that he learned an important lesson, all of us need an anchor that will hold during the storms of life.That anchor is our faith. What have you put your faith in? How important is it to have faith? Where do we find a faith strong enough to make it through the storms of life?

First Readng: Very little is known about the prophet Habakkuk. Even the meaning of his name is uncertain. From his writings some have deduced that he was a member, possibly a leader, of the temple choir. One might date his writings between the defeat of Neco by Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish (605 B.C.) and the siege of Jerusalem (597 B.C.). This places Habakkuk shortly after Nahum and makes him a contemporary of Jeremiah.

Our reading today is a curious mixture. In his book, Habakkuk poses two complaints to God and receives two answers. What we hear today is from the first complaint and the second answer. The first complaint is that there is no justice while the second complaint is about continued oppression.

Second Reading: As you will recall, Timothy is the pastor (bishop) at Ephesus. This second letter was written during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome shortly before his martyrdom in the year 67. This letter is, therefore, his last. Foreseeing his approaching end, Paul writes to his favorite disciple to give him final instruction and encouragement. He must not be ashamed of the gospel he tells him, nor of Paul, prisoner of Christ, for the gospel brings salvation, grace and light, and Paul is proud to be its messenger.

Gospel: There is a legend from the Orient about a traveller making his way to a large city. One night he meets two other travellers along the road — Fear and Plague.

Plague explains to the traveller that, once they arrive, they are expected to kill 10,000 people in the city.

The traveller asks Plague if Plague would do all the killing. Oh, no. I shall kill only a few hundred. My friend Fear will kill the others.

Fear, whether real or imagined, can discourage us, overwhelm us, strangle us. And fear is widespread in our society, from the personal – fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, fear not being loved, to the social – fear that war and disasters will gone on forever, fear that society will collapse, fear that the pollution will kill us, and so on and on.

And in the church too there is fear. The personal fears. The social fears. And the spiritual fears.

There a lot of people who feel
- that they are not able to do anything important
- that they can not and do not make a difference to anyone,
- that they are unable even to do even a part of what it is that God asks them to do,
- and that the great work that obviously needs to be done will never be done, and that they will let God down, and that God will let them down.

Many Christians are in a mess because
- they have forgotten what their faith is about
- they have forgotten what it is that God can accomplish.

Do these feelings describe your life – fear, despair, a sense of futility, a sense of hopeless-ness?
- Do you feel unexcited by your worship of the Lord?
- Unsure of just what the good news of the Gospel is?
- Burdened by life and by what is that God asks of you?
- And yet wanting to believe – wanting to do what is right – wanting to have the life that God has promised us even in the here and now?

Wanting, and yet…
- How can I feed the hungry?
- How can I clothe the naked?
- How can I bring peace to those around me?
- How can I spread the gospel of Jesus Christ?
- How can I forgive the people who have hurt me so badly?
- How can I even experience the joy that is supposed to be part of life with God, let alone help bring it to others?

The disciples experienced these feelings. In our Gospel reading today we hear them cry out to Jesus a cry that perhaps you have made at one time or another. They felt that what they faced in life, let alone what they faced as ones who wanted to follow Jesus, was too much for them, too much for their small faith to handle and so they cry out to the Lord- “Lord – increase our faith.” “Lord, help us believe enough so that we can do what it is that you have commanded us to do – help us trust enough so that we can live as you say we should be living. Lord, take away our fear.”

And what does Jesus do – how does he answer their prayer? Does he lay his hands upon them and pray and give them more faith as they asked? Does he snap his fingers and grant them a double dose of his Spirit and his faith? No my friends – he does not – instead he says to them, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘be uprooted up and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you”.

A strange answer – but really the best answer that could be made because you see the issue for us all is not: “How much faith do we have?” but rather: “Do we have any faith at all?”

Let me tell you a story – Many years ago shoe company sent one of its sales people to a far away country to start a business. After a few months he sent back the message: “Coming home, nobody wears shoes here.” The same company sent another sales person to the same backward company in his place. After a few months she wrote the home office this note: “Send more order forms – nobody wears shoes here.” The second salesperson saw the opportunity in her situation – not the difficulty – and more – she believed in her product – and because of that she succeeded where the first salesperson failed.

St. Augustine asked, “What is faith unless it is to believe what you do not see?” With St. Augustine we ask God, “Where are you? There is darkness around me, don’t abandon me even though I’m sinful, with little faith.” To be faithful is to be full of faith, it means to be trustworthy. We are representing here communities of trust.

“Cultures may divide us, faith instead unites us.” (Benedict XVI)

John Paul II said: “Faith is strengthened when it is given to others.”

Pope Benedict wrote, “Fear is a dead-end street, faith is the beginning of the future.”

The Second Vatican Council decreed that “The obedience of faith must be given to God who reveals Himself to us” (Dei Verbum). In the Gospel of Luke the Apostles ask Jesus, “Lord, increase our faith.”

Some people say: “It doesn’t matter what you believe, what counts is what you do. I would say instead it does matter what you believe, your faith indeed shapes what you do, your actions.

The philosopher Soren Kirkegaard wrote, “Faith begins where the human reason ends.” Blessed John Paul II expands on this by saying that faith and reason do not represent two different ways to reach God; they are instead complementary to each other (Fides et Ratio).

If we believe – even a little – even the smallest amount -then my friends we are on the right track. And I believe all of you here today are on the right track,all of you asking – like the disciples asked – “Increase our faith.”

Having said that and having understood the distinction between having faith and not having faith – the question becomes for us not one of how much faith we have, but what we have faith in. Too many of us look at our selves instead of God. We look at ourselves and we say – I can’t do it. I am not strong enough, wise enough, loving enough, giving enough, I do not have the money, the power, or the faith to succeed at what I am doing.

And that is completely true – we are not able! We do not have what it takes when it comes to dealing with what is truly important. But my brothers and sisters in Christ – God has it – God is able, And when we take hold of Him and believe in him, even a very little, his power is able to flow through us and he will work through us what is his will to do.

We have all met people who have lived through very difficult times, and no doubt many of us have thought about them that they must have had great faith to come out of their tribulations as well as they have. We may even have said to them – with respect and admiration: “I don’t think I could have faced what you have faced. Your faith must be very great.” I have heard this said to people, and I have heard the answer that they normally make. They reply almost always with words like these: “My faith is no greater than anyone else’s. I just didn’t know what I had until I needed it. God helped me, if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have made it.”

Haven’t you heard this kind of thing yourselves? Isn’t it one of those occasions when we may have said to ourselves: “I wish I had a faith like theirs”?

You know those people of faith that we admire are so right in what they say. We so often do not realize just what we have. We let it lie dormant in us – asleep in us – and we go out looking for something else. While all the while – God is there – and our faith in God is there – doing very little.

The good news of Jesus Christ covers all areas of human life, it speaks of forgiveness and peace and eternal life, it addresses the problems of poverty and of war and it provides solutions to despair and answers to human distress. But most of all, it tells us that alone we can do nothing, that we are, as many of us think, incapable, inadequate sinners lost in a dark world, and then it tells us that we are not alone, that God cares, that God works in the lives of those who believe in him, that God’s good purposes can’t be thwarted, that his word does not return to him empty, that he desires to transform not just the human heart – but the world in which we live and that all we need to do is reach down to that little kernel, that little seed within us and begin to do what it is that we have been called to do and God will do the rest..

God will do the rest – that is his promise – God will work in us and through us and bring his word to pass. He will pluck up the mountains and fill in the valleys. He will bring about the kingdom that we pray for.

What I am saying to you today is not – “have more faith” – but rather – “work with the faith that you already have”. When we start acting in faith the very first thing we discover is that a little is a lot. The Chinese proverb tells us that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

Take the step; follow the commands of God – heed his advice found throughout the scriptures and believe – that what God has promised will come about. Remember – no matter how small the step the step you take you are get closer to your destination when take it. But you have to take the step, you have to start claiming God’s word as your own if you are to receive what God has promised and do what God has called you to do.

St. Peter talks of how the faith of the Old Testament and the Gospels is for these present days. (1:12)

Peter literally says, “Angels desire to look into these things.” Can you imagine what that must be like? Angels are leaning over the rim of heaven and looking down. They have seen what God did with the prophets. They have seen how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies with his birth, life, death and resurrection. The angels have seen Lucifer kicked out of heaven, the resurrection of Christ, the dead raised, the Red Sea parted, and demons exorcized. But what they desire to see, is what God is going to do now.

The angels are watching you and me, and they want to see what the next chapter will be like. How will our faith and God’s great actions meet? Our time to live our faith is now.

All of us have faith, but will your anchor of faith hold in the storms of life? Is your anchor of faith a true anchor? Is your faith built upon the truth of scripture. Is your faith tested? Do you know how valuable, revealing and full of love, a faith in Christ is? Is your faith timeless, or will the newest fad or the latest philosophy cause you to tie to a new anchor? Only a faith in Christ is true, tested, and timeless.

It is not a question of if you have a faith. It is not a question of if the storms of life will come. It is the question, will your anchor of faith, hold through the storms? The time to anchor your hope and faith to Christ is now, before the storms show up.

Prayer: Lord of light – shine upon us. God of love fill our hearts with your wisdom. Holy Spirit, bring yourself closer to us in our words and how we hear them, in our thoughts and how we think them. Use this time – and use us to accomplish your good. Amen.

Lines to ponder over:

* Faith is like WIFI : IT IS INVISIBLE, BUT IT HAS THE POWER TO CONNECT YOU TO WHAT YOU NEED.

* FAITH does not make things easy it makes them possible.

* FAITH is seeing light with your heart when all your eyes see is darkness.

* FAITH is all about believing, you don’t know how it will happen, but you know it will.

* At my lowest: God is my Hope; At my darkest: God is my Light; At my weakest; God is my Strength, At my saddest: God is my Comforter.

* FAITH is trusting God even when you don’t understand his Plan.

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“The road of life was bright
It stretched before my sight.
The Lord was at my side
to be my friend and guide.

And so I started out.
“But then the sky grew dark,
and the road grew steep and stark.
Rocks and ruts cut my feet.
My legs grew sore and weak.

I scarce could travel on.
“I turned and cried ‘My Lord!
Why this pain; why this plight?
Why these ruts; why these rocks?
Why this darkness? Where’s the light?
I cannot carry on.’

“The Lord replied, ‘My child!
Why this fear; why this fright?
Where’s your faith? Where’s your trust?
Love chose this road for you.”

(Author unknown)

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Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.

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