Sunday, October 3, 2010

If Today You Hear His Voice, Harden Not Your Hearts.

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I
Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4
How long, O LORD? I cry for help
but you do not listen!
I cry out to you, "Violence!"
but you do not intervene.
Why do you let me see ruin;
why must I look at misery?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and clamorous discord.
Then the LORD answered me and said:
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.
+++    +++    +++    +++
Psalm 95
R. If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
"Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works."
R. If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
+++    +++    +++    +++   
Reading II
2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14
I remind you, to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have
through the imposition of my hands.
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;
but bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

Take as your norm the sound words
that you heard from me,
in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit
that dwells within us.
Luke 17:5-10
The apostles said to the Lord,
"Increase our faith."
The Lord replied,
"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.
"Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing
or tending sheep in the field,
'Come here immediately
and take your place at table'?
Would he not rather say to him,
'Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me
while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished'?
Is he grateful to that servant
because he did what was commanded?
So should it be with you.
When you have done
all you have been commanded,
say, 'We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.'"
The first two verses of today’s First Reading [Habakkuk 1:2-3] are an oracle, a message from God that the prophet received in a vision. Traditionally, these verses are taken as the prophet’s complaint against the evils of the people of Judah. The same language is used by Amos, Isaiah and Jeremiah to condemn the social abuses of their day. In the next few verses of Chapter 1, the LORD reveals that the Chaldean empire will be his instrument for chastising his people for these sins. In the second part of this reading, [Habakkuk 2:2-4] the prophet is told to make a record of his vision, so that anyone who reads it will learn that the Lord’s promise will eventually be fulfilled. Those who are rash and impatient will give up hope, because they have no faith; but the just, because of their faith, will live. The faith of which the prophet speaks is confidence in God’s justice, and patience in awaiting its fulfillment. St. Paul, in his letters to the Romans, the Galatians and the Hebrews, quotes these words from Habakkuk to confirm his teaching that we receive justification and eternal life not through our own efforts, but through faith in Christ.

In today’s Second Reading [Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14] Saint Paul reminds his young companion of the gift of God he has received by the imposition of hands – that is, by ordination as a bishop. He encourages Timothy not to be bashful in his testimony, both in his preaching and teaching, and in his willingness to witness to his faith. He will be able to bear with whatever hardships arise with the strength that comes from God just as Paul, his mentor, endures imprisonment – and eventually martyrdom – in giving witness to God.

Today’s gospel continues on the same theme: confidence and faith in God.

The disciples ask the Lord, “Make our faith stronger”. The Lord answers: "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to a tree: 'Pull yourself out of the ground and plant yourself in the sea'  and the tree would do it." Jesus is using picturesque language to illustrate a lesson of faith: Some things seem impossible, but even a small degree of faith in God makes all things possible.

Jesus continues the lesson with another story:

Suppose one of you has a servant, who is out plowing the fields, or looking after the sheep. When he returns to the house, you’re not going to invite him to sit down and eat his supper. Instead, you’re going to say: "Get my supper ready, and serve it to me. When I’ve finished my supper, you can have yours."  The master doesn’t praise the servant because he follows orders. That’s what he’s there for.

These sayings of Jesus, which are peculiar to Luke’s gospel, are Jesus’ response to the apostles' repeated request to increase their faith. They are a reminder – both to the disciples of Jesus who first heard them and to disciples of Jesus in every age of the church - including ourselves – that we can make no claim on God’s goodness; in doing what God asks of us, we are only doing our duty. On the other hand, returning to the beginning of today’s Gospel, if we have faith and confidence in God’s grace, we can do whatever God asks of us – even commanding a mulberry bush to uproot itself and plant itself in the sea.

1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

'faith the size of a mustard seed'

How does a mustard seed know to grow into an adult plant? Even today I don't expect a scientist could take the seed of a tree and, without knowing what the adult form looks like, predict from its DNA what it will eventually look like. The seed has been given a knowledge of itself that it doesn't even know it has. The seed does not have to worry about growing into a proper tree. Maybe we shouldn't worry too much about how great our faith is (or isn't) - we can have faith in the faith we have been given. It will be enough.

The adult plant does not expect to be praised for growing from a seed (although gardeners often will praise their plants!). It just grows up and bears fruit.

Far from expecting praise, I often feel a failure about the whole spiritual 'bearing fruit' thing. But perhaps it may happen after all in a way I'll never understand. I certainly hope so!!