Saturday, October 5, 2013

XXVII- O.T.Hb 1:2-3,2:2-4;Tim 1:6-9,13-14; Lk 17:5-10

All readings today speak a lot about "faith” and how it works in our lives. While the Apostles ask for an increase in the quantity of their Faith Jesus reminds them that the quality of their Faith is more important. Using a master-servant parable, Jesus also teaches them that for Faith to be effective, it must be linked with trust, obedience and total commitment— an active submission to God with a willingness to do whatever He commands. 
The Apostles had been traveling with Jesus for more than a year: living with him, hearing him preach, watching him perform miracles and change people's lives. They had been his disciples long enough to start realizing that they weren't very good disciples at all. They still didn't understand many things that Jesus said. They still couldn't help people as much as Jesus did. It would have been tempting for them, at that point, to get discouraged. But instead, they go up to Jesus one afternoon during a lull in their activities, and they ask for his help. They ask him to increase their faith. Jesus' answer is mysterious. He looks at them and smiles. He must have been glad that they had asked for help instead of abandoning the mission. Then he tells them that they don't need more faith, they just need to use the faith they already have.
It is not the size of our faith that is going to move the mountain. If it is the size of our faith that moved the mountain, then the bigger the mountain the more faith we would need to move it. The bigger the obstacle the more strength we’d need to climb it. The more serious the illness, a faith even greater would be required to overcome it. The more serious the sin the more faith we would need in order to have it forgiven. That kind of thinking, kind of makes sense, but that’s not how faith works. In fact, faith doesn’t do the work at all. God is the one doing the work through faith. Think of faith as the key that opens the door to God acting in our lives. If I have a bigger key ring than you do, does it matter? The size of a key ring doesn’t matter - key rings don’t open doors but it’s that little key on the ring that opens doors. Even a little faith opens the door for God to move the mountains and trees and even our hearts.
Prophet Habakkuk, whom we listened to in the First Reading, stresses the power of faith too - but he also gives us a clearer idea of what exactly faith is. Habakkuk lived in the 6th century BC, when Israel had been conquered by the Babylonians and the majority of Jews had been deported. It was as if a hurricane, like Katrina, had swept over not just one city, but the entire country. Habakkuk is in the middle of it all, he sees the devastated city and countryside, burned and barren, and strewn with corpses. He feels the pinch of poverty and destruction. And he does the most natural thing in the world: he complains to God about it: "How long, O Lord? I cry for help, but you do not listen!"
This teaches us an important lesson: a strong faith doesn't mean we won't suffer and be confused in life. A strong faith doesn't take away our crosses, but a strong faith does show us where to turn when the crosses come: to God, the all-loving Father. God answers Habakkuk's prayer. He promises that he will act, that He will restore Israel's fortunes. He doesn't give all the details. In fact, he even seems to imply that it may take longer than Habakkuk would like: "If it delays," God says, "wait for it."
But God shows that he is not aloof from our sufferings.  He is watching over us, no matter what. He promises that if we continue to have faith in him, in spite of suffering and hardship, we "shall live". Faith isn't a problem-free philosophy - that's superficial and na├»ve. Faith is strength with length - it's the power to persevere through difficulties - the power that comes from knowing that our Father is in charge.

Doubleday book publishers put out a book of letters written by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta to her spiritual directors. The public and the media were shocked by these letters. Everyone thought that Mother Teresa was the happiest person in the world, that her faith was so strong that nothing bothered her. And that is exactly the wrong idea of what faith is. Mother Teresa is a saint. Her faith was mature, strong, and contagious - it moved mountains, and it’s still moving mountains. But it didn't make her crosses disappear. Her faith was so strong that she fulfilled her promise never to deny God anything that He asked - but it didn't take suffering out of her life.
I am going home tomorrow to visit my family, primarily to visit my nephew who is fighting lymphoma, lungs cancer. He is only 24, it is hard for my brother and rest of our family to see what he is going through now, but God has his own way of purifying us and making us closer to Him. His way of acting is beyond our grasp of things. But we can always trust him;  though we cannot see through his plan. Even a mature faith doesn’t make a smooth sailing in life.

Similar conditions can make people react differently to the situations depending on their faith. A row egg and a carrot react differently when they are boiled in hot water. Egg which is soft inside becomes hard and carrot which is hard becomes soft. Both responded to the same kind of external conditions but different reactions came from within. Hardships and darkness can make one person closer to God and another person bitter towards God.

What we need to do is to trust God unconditionally of his design for us and keep strengthening our faith. The Responsorial Psalm we heard today gives us one surefire way to activate the power of faith: "If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart."  Listening to the word of God will help us to fan into flame the gift of faith about which Paul spoke to us in the second reading. By receiving the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of faith let’s fan into flame God’s gift of faith in us and help us aflame others’ faith in Christ.