SUNDAY, TWENTY SEVENTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
Hb 1:2-3; 2:2-4; Ps 95; 2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14; Lk 17:5-10
PLANTING AND NURTURING THE SEEDS OF FAITH
Faith is the foundation of the Christian life. Jesus taught his disciples to grow in faith, to believe and to entrust themselves increasingly to him, to build their own lives on the rock. For this reason, they asked him “increase our faith!” The liturgy today invites us to live and deepen our faith.
‘Now faith is the assurance of the things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen’ (Heb 11:1). Faith gives reality and proof of things unseen, treating them as if they were already objects of sight rather than of hope. According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, ‘Faith is distinct from all other acts of the intellect. It is defined as assurance, which distinguishes it from opinion, suspicion and doubt; it adheres to things not seen, which distinguishes it from science, whose object is something apparent; and it is directed toward things hoped for, by which the virtue of faith is distinguished from popular notions of faith, which have no reference to the beatitude we hope to attain.’ Faith makes a relationship with God possible. Saint Fulgentius says, ‘Faith is the foundation of everything and the beginning of human salvation. Apart from faith, one can neither be numbered among the sons of God nor obtain the grace of justification. Without faith, every human effort is empty.”
In the first reading from the prophet Habakkuk, we see a man who felt deserted by God. In the light of God’s promise to fulfil Habakkuk’s trust in him, we see that the society was marinated in violence, strife and contention amongst the Jewish people themselves, and not with their enemies. We can notice the extreme sensitivity of the Prophet Habakkuk about sin. He keeps praying and it only gets worse. People twist the Word of God to suit their agendas and they get away with it.
In the midst of all this, he finally receives an answer from God: there is still a vision; justice will come; in the meantime, the righteous live by their faith. He was instructed to write God’s answer on tablets so that whoever reads it may hastily go to proclaim what s/he had read. However, the last phrase may mean ‘write it plainly’, so that anyone who ‘runs his eyes’ over the tablet will read it easily. The righteous man shall live, enjoy deliverance and abundance of life by his faith, or better faithfulness; that is moral steadfastness. A person who has faith is a person who trusts and who can be trusted. The prophet teaches us that a person who has been made righteous by God lives and survives the coming ordeal by faith. The believer trusts God in everything.
In the second reading, the Apostle Paul also speaks of faith. Timothy is asked to have faith and, through it, to exercise charity. Paul reminds Timothy of the grace (gift) of priestly ministry which he received in fullness when Paul and a gathering of elders ordained him as bishop by the imposition of hands, and to rekindle it in faith. Paul urges him to make use of this divine help to complete his mission in Ephesus. Timothy is urged to yield himself to the supernatural strength of the Spirit, ‘for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control’, and thus be an effective teacher and shepherd. ‘Zeal is required to stir up the gift of God, for it lies within our power to kindle or quench this grace. By laziness and carelessness it is extinguished and by attentiveness and diligence it is kept aflame’ (Saint John Chrysostom).
Seeds are meant to be planted, so that even more lovely things can grow. When we plant the seeds of our faith they cause more faith to grow, and the acts of faith, which are God’s love, justice and mercy. When the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith, He tells them that if their faith was the size of a mustard seed, it was enough to work wonders. Faith, like a seed, grows based on the efforts that we make to help it to grow. To keep the flame of faith alive is the duty of every disciple of Christ until it sets the whole world on fire. Disciples should not expect congratulations for their service. Their work is important but not beyond the call of Christian duty to grow in faith, and no one can fully repay God for his gifts. May we grow in faith and in our faithfulness to the Holy Spirit.
Response: O that today you would listen to his voice! Harden not your hearts.
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