27th of the Year, 2nd Oct 22
In the Old Testament Reading we find the prophet Habakkuk haranguing God and acc using him of not listening to his prayer. A man, apparently, at the end of his tether remonstrating with God for allowing the wicked to oppress the righteous. Dating from about 612BC this short book is not so much a direct message to Gods people but more a record of a dialogue between the prophet and God but having that strong pointer at the end of the passage that `the upright man will live by his faithfulness`. Clearly Habakkuk found himself surrounded by a destructive and violent environment.
The theme of the upright man living by his faithfulness is taken up in the Gospel reading which begins with the apostles beseeching the Lord with the words, `Increase our faith.` The Lord`s response is almost sarcastic as he responds, `Were your 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. The Lord then goes on to tell a parable which I will return to later.
Faith in God, in Our Lord Jesus Christ, and all that God has revealed in His Son and His Church is necessary for salvation. Faith is so much more than the acceptance of a body of doctrine or professing a religion on the one hand or the mere acceptance of Jesus as our Saviour on the other and is NOT to be confused with sentiments! Our Christian faith, above all things, calls for a continuous response to God`s never-ending call. It is a daily personal self-giving that reflects an ever-growing, intimate and loving relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ which is developed through our prayer life, our sharing in the sacraments – and especially Holy Communion at the Mass and the use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation by which with God`s grace. we are helped to love Jesus daily more and more and, by the interior struggles which come by way of our obedience to Christ, deepens our relationship so that we become more identified with Christ and so more Christ-like, through the action of the Holy Spirit in our daily sharing of God`s grace.
Faith is a way of life and so must not be seen as some private sphere of our life but rather the courageous living out of our faith in every moment and circumstance of our daily lives. It is not something that we can pick up or put down at will but it is that which is lived out in courage, perseverance and coherence. That is why we need to petition God, with the apostles, with the words: `Increase our faith`. Our faith only grows when God Himself infuses his divine virtue in our souls. In this way what might seem to be a sarcastic remark when Jesus says, `Were your 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.` May be recognized, rather, as a word of encouragement. A woman or man who really believes in God, in Jesus and in His Church; who fully trusts in God`s Will and Wisdom and truly abandons herself or himself into God`s hands, has an unshakeable optimism and a firm serenity which is revealed whenever such a person finds himself or herself in difficult circumstances - for true faith enables us to share in God`s omnipotence as well.
We have been reminded by St. Paul in his second letter to St. Timothy, which was read to us earlier when Paul reminds his friend and co-worker Timothy that `God`s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control.` and a little later in verse 14, `You have been trusted to look after something precious; guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.`
In St. Mark`s Gospel chapter 9 and verse 23 we find Jesus saying to the father of the convulsing boy who had come to Jesus with the words “From childhood it has often cast him into the fire and into the water to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us” to which Jesus replied, “If you are able! – All things can be done for the one who believes” to which the father cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And, of course, Jesus cast out the evil spirit that possessed the boy. The father was not unlike the apostles in their asking “Increase our faith”.
Of course, for us Christians, it does not end with faith alone but we need also hope and charity – and charity means “love with action”.
This year we miss out on the commemoration of The Holy Guardian Angels which falls on 2nd October but because today is the 27th Sunday of ordinary time the commemoration is supplanted. Even so it is a wonderful reminder that we have help from heaven to pursue our faith and Christian life and not least by the Guardian Angels that God provides for each one of us and, if we go to St. Matthew`s Gospel chapter 18 verse 10 we find Jesus saying: “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.” Again, October is the month of the Holy Rosary so we are reminded that we have Mary our Mother to pray for us.
When I began this sermon I said I would come back to the parable that Jesus told the apostles and which was the second part of today`s Gospel reading which ends with Jesus saying these words: `So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.`” Amen.