Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 2, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Hab 1:2-3; 2:2-4 / Ps 95 / 2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14 / Lk 17:5-10
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
An elderly woman lived in one half of a duplex apartment. She was extremely poor but was a good woman. She prayed a great deal. In the other half of the duplex lived the owner. He was a man of no faith, no prayer, no religion. He often made fun of the old lady’s trust in God. One day, this woman was praying quite loudly, telling the Lord that she had no food in the house. The godless one heard her and decided that he would play a trick on the old lady. He took a loaf of bread, laid it at her front door, rang the bell, and hurried back to his apartment to hear through the wall her cry of delight: Thank you Lord. I just knew that You wouldn’t fail me! With a devilish grin, the man came back to her front door and told her, “You silly old woman! You think God answered your prayers? I’m the one who brought that loaf of bread.” Without any dismay, the old woman exclaimed, “Praise the Lord! He always helps me in my needs, even if He has to use the devil to answer my prayers.”
The readings this Sunday teach us lessons about faith and trust in God. In the first reading, the prophet Habukkuk complains to God: How long, O Lord? I cry for help but You do not listen. The prophet is asking whether or not God cares for His people. There is war and violence, misery and death all around their place. The powerful Babylonians are about to demolish the people of Israel. How can God allow things like this to happen?
Habukkuk is trying to question the loving presence of God, perhaps like many of us when we are confronted with so many problems and so much pain. Remarkably, God appears not to be displeased with Habukkuk, since He answers him with gentle and reassuring words. It sounds as if He’s telling the prophet, “Be patient. I have a plan. I will intervene when it is time. What I ask of you now is faith and if you have it, you will live.”
What kind of faith does God ask of Habukkuk? The prophet believes in God’s existence. In fact, he is already imploring for divine intervention. Yet God wants Habukkuk to develop a kind of faith that is trustful and steadfast in the face of trials and difficulties. God would like Habukkuk to keep believing that God will not abandon His people, and that He will save them in His own time.
In today’s gospel, the Apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith. The Apostles themselves realize their need for a more solid kind of believing in order to persevere in following the Lord. Real faith is necessary, considering the fact that it is not easy to understand the radical teachings of Jesus, like leaving homes and families, daily carrying the cross, forgiving one another, and loving one’s enemies. It is even more difficult to follow the Lord’s way of life, like living simply, serving the poor, teaching the ignorant, exorcising demons, touching lepers, and challenging authorities.
The Lord says in reply, “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.” Jesus compares faith with a tiny mustard seed whose power does not depend on its size, but on its great potential hidden within itself. Faith, even when it’s little, has the capacity to do unbelievable things in the life of individuals and communities.
The use of the image of the mustard seed also suggests that the quality of faith is more important than its quantity. We might think that the more we know theology, the more prayers we recite, the more religious organizations we join, the stronger our faith becomes. Such is not necessarily true. In the Gospel of John, the Lord says, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words that I speak to you, I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in Me is doing His works. Believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Or else believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in Me will do the works that I do.” (John 14:10-12)
Somehow these words can help us understand the kind of faith that we need to develop in our lives. Faith is our unqualified acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of humankind. Our faith is genuine if we believe in the person of Jesus, His salvific words and actions, and if we trust in His absolute power over darkness and sin. The believer would manifest this faith meaningfully by participating in the saving works of Jesus.
There is a story of a small boy, a passenger on a luxury ship. The ship was nearly sinking because of a very strong typhoon. Everyone was in panic, grabbing lifeboats and life jackets from each other. This little boy was sitting in a chair as if nothing was happening. One adult passenger approached him and asked, “Boy, it seems that you don’t mind what is happening. Don’t you know that in a few minutes, we are going to sink?” The boy answered, “Excuse me, sir, the captain of the ship is my father. Because he is my father, I trust him. Why would I be afraid?” The captain of our lives is none other than God Himself.
Saint Paul writes from prison to encourage Timothy to keep the faith. His words to Timothy remind us that we have all received a special gift from God, a gift which is more than enough to enable us to remain strong in faith. That is the Holy Spirit: the spirit of power, the spirit of love and self-control.
So today, let us ask God to increase our faith. As we try to face with courage our own problems in life, let us not forget that our difficulties can never equal the sacrifice of Jesus which He offered for our sake. When we pray to the Lord, “Lord, increase our faith,” we are opening ourselves to be moved more and more by the power of His spirit. With the help of the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us, we can stir into flame the gift of faith. We become capable of guarding this rich trust and of witnessing to our faith before others.