It is my practice to attempt to put up some sort of reflection on the Sunday readings every week. This is the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time and while we have some great Scriptures, I found myself floundering around for what to write about.
One thing I got to thinking about was all the many things that might cause us to make a fist to shake at God... It could be a family situation, it could be a financial or health situation. Maybe it is that most toxic places - politics, which could include war, poverty, the economy. Maybe you are in a marginalized community and you are tired of being nice and waiting to reconcile or be heard. Maybe you are not marginalized and you grow weary of those who should just "buck up" and get with the program. There are zillions of scenarios to consider.
In my waiting and praying about what to write about, two things emerged for me... One was the message, so profoundly heard in our first reading from Habakkuk:
How long, O LORD? I cry for help
but you do not listen!
Who has not felt that way?!
The second was when I came across something on the internet which said that it was unusual that our first reading and Gospel today, were not related. That struck me because I see a connection... So, that is how I came up with this reflection.
In our first reading Habakkuk, who is considered a minor prophet who lived around 620 B.C., really lets it fly with God. How long? Seriously God - what is up with this? We're tired of waiting! I think of how you can buy an express pass for any big amusement park - lines are so bo-ring! We're busy, got places to go and things to do!
I do not think that Habakkuk is asking for an express pass, but he is expressing his frustration directly to God. And that is a good thing. If you are afraid to do the same - take note please... God answers Habakkuk. More about that in a minute. By the way, it is worth noting that the name Habukkuk means "to embrace or wrestle." I like that.
The second reading is from the second letter of Saint Paul to Timothy. Listen to this for a moment:
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, says St. Paul. Then why do we as a culture so often mistake humility with weakness? And we mistake piety as cowering? And then we mistake power with domination? It is worth pondering. Habakkuk understood some of that power as mentioned by St. Paul and faced God with his frustration.
The other thing interesting about this part of the passage is that we are not to be ashamed. Again, another cultural issue is that of being either too politically correct by not being seen as "too religious," or perhaps as being too individualistic and thus not being who you are.
So what does that have to do with the Gospel... Sorry, I am slow, I am getting there!
Today's Gospel from Luke reminds us that the apostles asked plainly:
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith."
What person of faith has not uttered that? This is where perhaps the first reading intersects with this Gospel, and the second reading too. Is Habakkuk not in a sense asking for more faith? And while we can't know what Timothy was thinking, we can see that Paul was encouraging him and others to accept the gift of faith, without shame.
All of this points to one thing perhaps and that is that we keep looking outside for faith. This is understandable as our faith is a gift. That said, the gift is here within and all around us, we simply must accept and open the gift.
Now to circle back to Habakkuk and to bring this back to the Gospel... In Habakkuk, God instructs the prophet to:
Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets,
so that one can read it readily.
For the vision still has its time,
presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;
if it delays, wait for it,
it will surely come, it will not be late.
The rash one has no integrity;
but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.
Write it down. Clearly. The vision still has its time and is unfolding. It it delays, well then wait. Have the faith to know that it will come. And in the Gospel, isn't Jesus saying the same thing when he advises the apostles:
"If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
Be patient, wait - but have the faith. Have the faith. And St. Paul underscores this with his admonition to accept the power and responsibility of the faith that has been given to us all of us.
It is always worth asking, it is always worth wa