Sunday Sermon for October 6, 2013, the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Hab 1:2-3, 2:2-4; 2Tim 1:6-8, 13-14; Lk 17:5-10
In the first reading today the Prophet Habakkuk sounds a lot like what many people are saying these days. He cries for help but there seems to be no answer. He cries “violence” but the Lord does not intervene to stop it. He looks on ruin and misery every day. The list goes on from there but our reading does not include it all. This sampling is sufficient to make the point.
While there are many today saying these same things and praying daily against them, the real tragedy is that many people do not even notice that there is a problem. Even if they do, others are there to tell them they are like Chicken Little thinking that the sky is falling down. Beyond this, there is the media that tells people what to think, so many people cannot think outside of that box because they think they have to think and be just like everyone else.
This is not anything new; it has been going on since near the beginning. People keep asking why God is not doing anything. We have to realize that He is very much involved, He sees everything that is going on, and He has a purpose for what He is doing. When we see violence, ruin, misery, and destruction it appears, from our very limited human perspective, that God either does not care or is unaware. Neither could be further from the truth, but we are unable to see the bigger picture.
I believe, as I have mentioned before, that we are in a time similar to that of the Prophet Elijah. At that time there was a lot of corruption within the hierarchy and vast infidelity among the people. Recall that only seven thousand people in the entire country of Israel had not bent their knee to Baal. It had not rained for three and a half years and it seemed that God simply did not care.
In reality, God was testing the faith of the people. There are indeed many problems in the Church today, and there are many people who have either walked away from God completely, compromised the faith in one or more ways, of just keep saying that they believe is God while they live like the pagans. God is allowing all of this to test the faith of each and every person. Are we going to be like everyone else or are we going to remain faithful to the truth God has revealed through His Son and in His Church?
The Church seems to recognize this by giving us the Gospel which begins with the Apostles asking the Lord to increase their faith. Like any other virtue, faith only grows when it is tested. We would like it to be infused; God puts us in situations where it has to be practiced.
It is in this way that we can apply the words of St. Paul in the second reading when he reminds us that God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but of power, love, and self control. Strengthened by these, we have what we need, by God’s grace, to never be ashamed of our Lord or our testimony to Him. No matter what happens in the Church or in the world, we can never be ashamed of professing our faith in Jesus or in the Church He founded. The truth remains the truth, even if it is not preached from the pulpit or lived out in daily life.
Our Lord reminds us in the Gospel that we are His servants and that He has given us some commands that we are to follow. When we have done everything He has told us to do, we still have nothing to be proud of. After all, we have only managed to do what we were commanded.
If we were faithful to everything and then produced fruit in love beyond that, perhaps we would have something to boast about. But let’s admit it, we have not done what we were commanded to do, let alone do anything over and above that. So, if we were called unprofitable servants when we do no more than what we commanded, then what are we to be called when we have not even done the minimum?
From that perspective, why should we expect God to be rewarding us? Why should He give us what we want when we have refused to give Him what He wants from us? So, sin and infidelity bring violence, ruin, misery, and destruction. These test our faith and, with power, love, and self control, we can not only remain minimally faithful, but we can grow in faith and demonstrate our love for and fidelity to Jesus of Whom we must never be ashamed.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.