Lord increase Our Faith, 2ND OCTOBER 2016

There is really no “ordinary” time for the Christian. Yet, especially in times of extraordinary pressures, when challenged to go even further, we may often be moved to pray, hopefully if not desperately, “Lord, increase our faith.” We merely want to be equal to the challenge. There is timelessness about the message that pervades today’s readings, and that message touches on the ordinary as well as the pressured moments of our lives. Habakkuk, the author of 2 Timothy, and Luke all conspire to impress upon us the tireless courage demanded of the disciple over the long haul, despite opposition.

Likewise today, we, like Habakkuk, experience great difficulty taking seriously the challenge to entrust our lives to God. Sometimes arrogance, but more often plain common sense inhibits our real conviction that God cares so deeply and loves so surely that anxiety is unnecessary, useless and even contrary to faith. But, even in the face of oppression and violence the prophet insists, the vision has its time, presses on to fulfillment and will not disappoint. The apparently intimidated Timothy has much the same message: three times his mentor reminds him that strength lies in God: God has bestowed… has given, that strength comes from God. The future makes us fearful but the past testifies to God’s fidelity. The Christian need not seek security elsewhere but in God, source of all hope and strength.

Not only is the future unknown, but the Christian has been promised a share in the sufferings of Christ and this much we can count on (cf. Phil 1:29, for example). Nearing Jerusalem, the place that Jesus himself characterized as the killer of the prophets (cf. Lk 13:34), the disciples seem to sense its dangers and somewhat desperately ask for an increase of faith, Jesus seems almost oblivious to their problem, saying first that quantity is irrelevant and secondly that the disciples” expectations of reward are misdirected.

As usual, Jesus’ method of speaking in parables both reveals and challenges. A parable provides an example taken from common experience but not without a strange and arresting twist. The impatience of the prophet, the timidity of Timothy and the fearfulness of the disciples are to be contrasted with the studied attentiveness, almost passiveness, of the servant whose only purpose is to “wait on” the Master as he sits at table.

We all get tired of waiting. It is difficult – increasingly so – to be patient. And not only is the delay unnerving, but the forces of oppression seem to be gathering strength and prophets cannot help but wonder, “How long, 0 Lord?” (cf. Hab. 1:2; also Is. 6:11). Which introduces another timeless dimension: namely, that of suffering? Suffering is a mystery, especially when we consider its positive and apparently fundamental role in the Christian life. And it can be not only mysterious but even offensive. Folly to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews (cf. 1 Cor. 1:23), the cross of Christ represents a challenge to both reason and faith. Although it may take many diverse forms, suffering is neither abstract nor vague. The faithful remain patient, hopeful, courageous and dependable even in the midst of all the threatening and adverse forms that suffering can take.

Today Paul tells Timothy to fun into flame the gift God gave him when he became a believer. Very often we are full of love when we turn to Christ, but during the time that we see little progress we become discouraged and lose our first love. We must fun that first love, into flame, because if we persevere and are faithful, the expectations of our first love will come through even if it looks impossible as the transplanting of mulberry tree into the sea.



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