I was invited by my friend Fr. Julius Abuh, Parochial Administrator of St. Therese Catholic Church in Clinton, to assist and preach at their Masses this weekend. I’ve been a long time friend of the parish, assisting them with their website and photographing various Masses and events over the past five years. Here is the text of my homily.
Faith and Faithfullness
Habakkuk 1:2-3,2:2-4; Psalm 94:1-2,6-9; 2 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14; Luke 17:5-10
Without a doubt, faith and faithfulness are the dominant themes in today’s readings.
We hear about the necessity of faith and faithfulness in today’s first reading. Habakkuk questioned God about why he didn’t intervene in the world, especially when suffering and evil seem to be triumphing? Why does God tolerate the wicked? These are surely the same questions many of us ask today as we witness the evils of terrorism, persecution, and abortion running rampant throughout the world.
In the face of evil and tragedy we must trust that God knows what he is doing and that he is able to bring good out of evil. We must remain faithful to him in spite of the evil we see around us.
There is certainly nothing wrong with questioning God when tragedy happens. It’s natural to wonder why bad things happen to good people. But ultimately we must rest on FAITH that he knows what he is doing and trust that he is in control.
Today’s responsorial Psalm underscores this important truth by urging us not to harden our hearts to God, in bad times as well as good. No, it’s not easy to have faith in the face of evil, pain and loss, and we may be tempted to be angry with God at these times.
In his mercy he certainly understands that it takes some time to come to terms with our suffering and loss, but it is always necessary that we eventually come around to an understanding that God sees the big picture and knows what he is doing. We must not allow our pain to harden our hearts to God and his mysterious ways.
In the second reading Timothy is given a another version of the same message of Habakkuk. Paul tells him to bear hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God. We are encouraged to be strong in order to have the power to cope; to be loving, and stay calm in the face of temptation to panic. Again, the message is that we must always have faith that God is in control. We must “let go and let God.”
In today’s Gospel we see the Apostles asking the Lord to increase their faith. They understood that faith is a gift. No one buys it, earns it, or wins it. It comes from God, and one can only do what the Apostles did: pray for the gift of faith and for it to increase when it is weak.
Jesus tells us that “If your faith was 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.”
I believe this text is often misinterpreted to mean, “O ye of little faith!” as a put-down of sorts of the disciples for not even having the faith of a tiny seed. I don’t think this is what Jesus is saying.
While the apostles ask for an increase of faith, Jesus is telling him that they already have the faith they need. He says that it only takes faith the size of the teensiest mustard seed to move aside mountains of doubt and despair. I think Jesus is telling us, “You have plenty of faith to accomplish all I ask, so stop making excuses for yourselves.” Start believing!
Here’s the deal. If we want our faith to increase, we must act upon it, we must exercise it, we must trust, take the plunge, have confidence. Our capacity to trust increases when we exercise it. Faith is a lot like our muscles, it gets stronger when we exercise it. We must first trust in order to trust more.
Today we need to take hold of the truth that we do have faith – we already have the gift of faith given to us at Baptism and Confirmation and nourished by the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus is telling us that we really don’t need more faith, but that we should rely more on the faith we have already been given.
If we would only dare to USE this faith we will experience amazing things happen in our lives and we’ll see God’s will be accomplished through us.
True faith requires that we admit that we are not fully in control of our lives. It requires that we have a confident trust in the power of God working in our lives. It compels us to grow in an understanding that the more I surrender to God, the greater things can happen.
In today’s Gospel we also hear Jesus teach about the nature of service to God. He cautions us to know our place in God’s plans, which is so essential to exercising the faith we’ve been given.
Even when God works wonders through us, using our mustard seed-sized faith, we must not seek praise for ourselves. Our participation in God’s plans must be as that of a humble servant.
When we are given the grace to cooperate with God, the work we do is nothing more than our obligation to God as faithful stewards. We simply have to do what God tells us to do…what we are literally obliged to do…and then he can work powerfully through us.
Today as we approach Our Lord in Holy Communion, let us offer ourselves to Jesus unconditionally and in humble service so that we can more fully experience the joy of the faith we’ve already been given. Let us ask him for an attitude of faith as we serve him in one another and let us understand that in doing so we are simply doing what we are obliged to do.
To God be all the glory, Amen!