Hab 1: 2-3–2: 2-4; II Tm 1: 6-8, 13-14; Lk 17: 5-10
One summer, a drought threatened the crop in a small town. On a hot and dry Sunday, the village pastor told his congregation, “There isn’t anything that will save us except to pray for rain. Go home, pray, believe, and come back next Sunday ready to thank God for sending rain. “The people did as they were told and returned to church the following Sunday. But as soon as the pastor saw them, he was furious. “We can’t worship today. You do not yet believe,” he said. “But,” they protested, “we prayed, and we do believe.” “Do you?” he asked. “Then where are your umbrellas?”
How long, O Lord? I cry for help. But you do not listen! I cry to you “Violence!” But you do not intervene. (Hab 1:2)
We might ask, “Was the prophet Habakkuk praying without faith? He said to God, “you do not listen”, “you do not intervene.” How often when a crisis comes we concentrate on the crisis instead of on God. This is the common fault of humanity, our faith is strong when everything is going well, but when the crisis hits we pray like Habakkuk yet also like Habakkuk we say “you do not listen”, “you do not intervene” and we have questions about God and we wonder if God exists or even if God is gone on vacation.
Every time the Hebrews suffered a setback in the desert after escaping from Egypt they complained and said that it was better in Egypt and they should never have left. What a short memory they had, forgetting the miracle of the exodus. In one sense we could say the great sin of the Old Testament is forgetting; the Chosen People forgot what God had done for them and instead only looked at the difficulties around them and then they sinned.
Crises are an opportunity for us to grow. And we will have many of these opportunities. They are an opportunity for us to grow in faith. God responded to Habakkuk encouraging faith. God said, “…the just one, because of his faith, shall live.” (Hab 2:4)
In the Gospel, the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith?. Did he increase their faith? No. He said, “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.” (Luke 17:6) We already have all the faith we need. It is a question of drawing on the gift of faith that we already possess. We are sons and daughters of God but what a pity it is that we don’t allow this faith to have more of an effect in our lives.
While the disciples 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.
“There is a story named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry at that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.”
It is of course a badly kept secret that a small percentage of every parish largely carries the entire operation. Money is one important factor of course. I am glad that at least 40 – 50% of our registered parishioners contribute financially on the regular basis. How nice it will be if we have 100% participation. Another is time invested in church enterprises whether they be participation in the parish council, ushering, lectors, social functions, etc.
If everyone did his or her part, what a difference this parish would be! The Church works best we are advised when we see ourselves not as spectators but as participants. Yet, should anyone be moved to thank us for our participation, all of us would have to still borrow the last line of Jesus from today’s Gospel. we must say of ourselves, “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'”