Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (2016)
By Fr. Leroy Clementich, CSC
Among the various prayers that I say each morning and evening there is one that is very personal to me. It runs something like this: “Dear God, after all these many years living on this earth, I want to thank you that I can still practice the Catholic faith that my ancestors of generations past handed on to me. Forgive me if I seem to betray your trust. My only hope is that you will nourish and sustain me until some day you will call me home. Amen.
When I think about it, it almost seems like some kind of ancient miracle that this Catholic faith has been passed on to me throughout thousands of years of history. Given the accidents of time, it could have easily been lost. I could have been born into a non-Catholic or a non-Christian family; my Catholic link could easily have been severed for any number of reasons. Nonetheless, here I am still working at this word processor still thanking God for something that seems a great mystery to me. I am sure that my many Protestant friends must feel the same way. Faith is a mysterious gift somehow tangled up with history.
Faith, obviously, is also an undeserved gift of God but also a treasure that has been handed on by the thousands of people who have come through our lives over the centuries.
The word faith, of course, has several meanings: As I have indicated thus far, it could refer to the body of doctrine and teachings that are part of the church. On a more personal level it could also mean the conviction of the heart that we hope to do God’s will throughout our life.
Thomas Merton, the Trappist, monk in his book Thoughts in Solitude wrote the following: “My Lord God, I will trust you always though I seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
I think Merton is saying that faith is more than an act, more than a doctrine; it is rather a deep trust, a personal conviction that God will sustain us throughout our life. On our own, we are helpless.
In the life of Jesus we see many such instances where he threw his whole life into the hands of the Father, especially at those times when all he believed and worked for seemed to be lost.
Given all we have said thus far, we now turn to the scriptures for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time that speak so eloquently of faith.
The first lesson comes from the pen of the prophet Habakkuk who like many of the ancient prophets felt the call from God to preach reform to the Israelite people. Much to his consternation, however, his words fell on deaf ears. So, he makes this plea: “How long, O Lord, must I cry out violence, ruin, misery and discord while you do not seem to listen?” In response, God urges him to have patience. Reform takes time; if you have faith your words will ultimately be heeded.
The gospel of Luke offers us a quaint incident from the life of Jesus’ apostles. They obviously were having some difficulty understanding and believing his teachings. So, they say to Jesus “increase our faith,” assuming that more is always better than less. Jesus settles the question by telling them that if they even had faith the size of a tiny mustard seed they would be able to do unbelievable deeds.
We are not told whether this answer settled their minds, but it is also good advice for us modern believers who often imagine that the more theology we learn, the more catechism answerers we memorize, the more novenas we make…these will somehow increase our faith.
I still clearly remember my dear grand mother who probably learned very little catechism as a child but who taught us how to say the rosary and how to make the act of contrition. It probably never occurred to her that we did not need to know much more than that to be faithful Catholics. Now that I think of it, she was probably right.
The scriptures: Habakkuk 1: 2-3; 2, 20-4 • 2 Timothy 1: 6-8, 13-14 • Luke 17: 5-10
USCCB Bible Daily Readings: Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time