We are people of faith, but our experiences of trusting Who and what we believe differ. Faith is not a feeling, but a relationship unlike any other. If anything, faith results in a feeling about like, ourselves, and others. Faith answers the questions about how and why we live the ways we do.
As we move through our eucharistically-blest days, we will have many questions directed at ourselves, or at God. We could just stop living this way until we have answers, or we can keep living and letting our lives be part of the answer. We can pray with our wonderings, problems, and complaints and allow them to lead us to the celebration of the “central mystery of our faith.” Questions are very prayerful, but only if we are willing to live toward the “vision”.
The first few verses of the reading from the prophet Habakkuk are similar to notions we might have after watching the evening news. “Violence”, “misery”, and “destruction” are all around the prophet and he cries, as we do, for God to intervene. “Strife” and “clamorous discord” end the first complaint to God. The crier has several other complaints during this book and God has several responses of which we hear the first.
A “vision” is promised and it is to be written down as it can be a witness in time to come, that God is faithful. The Reading ends with an invitation to wait patiently for the fulfillment of the vision. Those who are hurried or “rash” will not see it, but those who keep watching shall live rightly.
The Gospel opens with a kind of complaint, that is asking for more faith. Habakkuk was a little more direct, but the feeling is the same. The apostles would be feeling the sting of the previous chapter’s teachings about the dangers of riches and the blessedness of poverty. They are wondering how they can keep listening, following and being called to conversion. So they ask for an increase. Obviously they would like the increase be poured into their souls or Jesus snaps His fingers and presto! it all becomes clear. Instead, Jesus hits them with an image and then a rhetorical question.
Even a little bit of faith could move tall trees out of the ground and deposited into the sea. Did you see the eyes of the apostles blink at that one? They might be standing next to a tree near the shore and they all do a “faith-flush”, but the tree remains and they have a “face-blush”. After all their time with Jesus, they do not have even faith the size of a little mustard seed.
The little story Jesus relates to them seems harsh, but you have to admit that it gets us thinking. The master comes into the kitchen and orders the servants who have just come in from their day’s labor in the master’s fields. Instead of thanking them and inviting them to sit down for dinner with him, he orders them to get out in the kitchen and fetch his meal. After he is finished they can eat. They should not expect gratitude, but actually reflect that they had been doing that which was expected by the master.
The image of the mustard seed is easy to relate to faith, but this story leaves us with some questions. Perhaps Jesus is the harsh master? The apostles are the hungry, but dutiful workers? If they spend their lives doing what Jesus orders them, then after the Resurrection to the heavenly banquet, they can follow, but only as “unprofitable servants”? This is an easy reduction.
Believing in Jesus and what He is saying about life’s meaning and life’s invitations is that to which we are called. It is a God-given gift so in exercising that gift we are actually doing nothing resounding to our personal credit. We say that there is not rest for the “wicked”. There is no rest for living our gift of faith either.
Jesus is inviting His apostles and Luke invites us, to keep relating with Jesus so that living with faith becomes a usual way of living and acting. In the story, the laborers are expected to respond to the master’s request as a usual rather than harsh demand. Everything and everyone is a gift, life itself is undeserved. When we believe this, then we move easily from a sense of our being “entitled” to a posture of our being “entrusted”. There is a huge difference and when understood our life’s actions will change from being deeds of obedience to expressions of grateful reverence.
“Entitlement” is a stance toward all things and all others in which we figure that all things ought to be able to be figured out, made clear and that our persons are “special”, because well, just because we are who we are.
“Entrusted” is a posture of humble acceptance of our deepest truths. We are created of love, for love and are returning to that love. We are “special”, but by this Creator’s love. Gifts are given to each, entrusted to each, but what makes us “special” is not the giftedness, but the grateful distributedness in which we engage.
Habakkuk expresses that he and the people should have answers and pretty darn quick. God entrusts them with a vision and a promise. The apostles want an increase of understanding to which they feel entitled after following Jesus all these miles and months. Jesus invites them deeper than their demanding intellects to a way of wondering, watching, and waiting. Our faith may not uproot trees, but it does wait for the trees to bring forth fruit and life. Violence, destruction, misery provoke the prophets to cry onto God. Does God hear, care, respond! It can seem that the bad guys are winning and we, the simple and trusting, are losing. Jesus asks for trust that He is the “vision” and we the faithful will “live”.
“Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
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