Faith helps give us hope in our world

  • September 22, 2010
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) Oct. 3 (Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4; Psalm 95; 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14; Luke 17:5-10)

When is God going to do something about this mess? How could a compassionate and just God permit the things that go on in our world? These are not trendy modern questions — the folks in ancient Israel were asking them too.

The prophet Habakkuk lived in a time of great uncertainty, strife, fear and incredible violence — in other words, in a time much like our own. He is filled with anguish, for it seems that he and others cry out to an unhearing and uncaring God. Many of us can relate to his experience. But he does receive an answer: things must run their course. The destruction and violence will pass away and the world will go on. There will be new life and hope for a future. There is reason and order that binds together the apparent chaos like a gentle web. But the last verse is most important: the righteous person — the one right with God — lives by faith. This does not mean holding to particular doctrines or belonging to a certain group.

Faith in the Old Testament sense is a firm inner conviction that God is good, compassionate, trustworthy and always present. This faith gives one the courage to walk even when the route and destination are unknown. But more importantly, it gives us the inner sight to see goodness, beauty and hope even amidst darkness, chaos and destruction. The century that has just thankfully passed was filled with unspeakable horrors and unimaginable destruction. Many lost their faith in everything and any sense of life’s meaning. But many others refused to give in to darkness and set about rebuilding a new world from the rubble and ruins of a shattered civilization.

Living by faith is an invitation to be a beacon of hope and light in a world that can be so dark at times and refusing to be overpowered or crushed by what goes on around us. In recent years far too many have chosen to live by fear rather than by faith, but the vocation of those who claim the name Christian is to be a faith-filled sign of contradiction and hope.

This same challenge was present in the time of Paul and his followers. Guarding the treasure — rekindling the gift of God — both are good metaphors for living by faith. The author of 2 Timothy exhorts his audience not to live by fear for the Spirit of God that has been given to believers is definitely not the spirit of cowardice but power and love. But these can be merely empty words unless we live and walk in that Spirit. The resistance that we meet from outside of ourselves to the Gospel should not make us retreat into silence and passivity. On the other hand, we should be equally vigilant for the resistance that arises within us.  

Faith is more than a nice sentiment or a proper attitude — it is also a form of power. No one takes a mustard seed seriously for it is so small and seemingly insignificant. But a comparable amount of pure and genuine faith has the power to uproot trees and move mountains. So it is in the midst of chaos and suffering. The faith that we have can actually be the catalyst for the transformation of our surroundings and the creation of a new order. When human efforts are done in faith they are joined with the power of God and marvellous things can happen. Negativity, cynicism and despair contribute nothing and can actually be destructive.

The parable of the master and slave that Jesus narrates to His audience serves to deflate human egos. If we live as people of faith and are examples of hope we should beware of patting ourselves on the back or painting ourselves as “good” or “holy.” After all, we have not really done anything exceptional. We are merely doing what we are supposed to do and living as God intended us to live when we were created. Putting saints, sages and reformers on a pedestal can lull us to sleep and distract us from the realization that they are no different than we are, they have merely awakened to their true nature and destiny. The joy of manifesting the image of God within us is our “reward” for a life of faith-filled service.