October 7, 2007 Year C
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time/19th Sunday After Pentecost
Reflections on the Readings
By Dennis Hankins
Habakkuk1:2-3; 2:2-4; Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
2Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14; Luke 17:5-10
Theme: Increase Our Faith!
We all are called to exercise faith as a grain of mustard seed.
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" And the Lord said, "If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine (mulberry) tree, 'Be rooted up and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.
It is tempting to see Jesus' response to the apostles as a rebuke. But listen closely to our Lord. He is not saying we should seek to be able to transplant trees with a word from our mouth. However, He is suggesting something very remarkable if not powerful about faith.
A grain of mustard seed, which when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade. (Mark 4:30-32)
Perhaps we need to increase our understanding of the power of the mustard seed. The end result of the germination of the tiny mustard seed is what its large branches offer in the way of comfort and protection. How has it come about that something slightly larger than a period exerts so much fortitude? Is it not because the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear? (Hebrews 11:3)
A close look at a mustard seed does not reveal roots, or height or even large branches. Nothing about a mustard seed looks like a mustard tree. God implanted into every living thing the power to reproduce itself. And such is faith. Faith brings the life of God into our midst. It is by faith the righteous live. If something seems slow in coming, it will surely come, it will not delay says the prophet Habakkuk. Everything has its time, even if it seems slow, wait for it, he continues. The life of the mustard tree is in its seed. Faith receives its life from our Father who inspires it.
How are we drawn to faith and living by faith? Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ. (Romans 10:17) We must nourish ourselves often with the scriptures. It is they that testify of Christ. It is the words of scripture that provide light and guidance in our walk of faith. We are called to walk by faith and not by sight. And sometimes, like Abraham, we leave all sensory perception behind as we contemplate that which is not as though it really was. Sometimes we walk in the steps of that faith of Abraham who went out not knowing exactly where he was going. (Hebrews 11:8) This does not mean our destination or project or accomplishments do not exist. They exist in the powerful seed of faith. Every effort borne of faith is to be a witness to and a guardian of the truth. Not with a spirit of cowardice but of power and love and self-control.
Walking and living by faith is a matter of conforming our lives to the pattern of sound words. Again it is the preaching of Christ which forms the basis of our understanding of the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
On a personal note, it has been the Red Cardinal that has often reminded me of the goodness and faithfulness of God. After a severe disappointment and months and months of darkness and despair, it was the song of the Cardinal I began to hear. And through the years it has been the Cardinal that shows up unexpectedly to remind me of the life of faith God has called me to live.
Recently, our youngest child, who is just now seven, was failing to thrive. Her food and water intake was inadequate. On Good Friday, 2007 she entered Children's Hospital by way of the ER. For six long days tests were initiated to determine the cause of her not thriving. None of the potential conditions were comforting. The worst one to be ruled out was Cystic Fibrosis. Because the principle test was red flagging that disease, a DNA blood work up was ordered. The results for that would take several weeks.
One lonely morning while I made my way to work, I prayed in desperation for the Lord to provide me a sign to help me and my family and little girl to get through this. It was a bleak morning. The sun was not shining, and a crisis was looming in our future. As I made my usual trek from our house down the street and then my typical right at the end of our street and crested the little hill just before my next turn, what do you think I saw? There he was in royal red and splendor, waiting for me at the crest of the hill, sitting in the grass by the side of the road and looking right at me, a Cardinal, sent by God.
Behold, he whose soul is not upright in him shall fail, but the righteous shall live by his faith.
Dear Jesus, you have commanded me to live by faith in communion with the faithful. It is my duty to respond to you in faith. I, your unworthy servant request that I may always live in you and for you. And when I have done all that you have asked me to do, may I then dwell eternally with you. Amen.