Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I Habakkuk 1:2-4
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
Reading II 2nd Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14
Gospel Luke 17:5-10
Our readings this morning are about faith. I want you to close your eyes, and I’m watching, and if I ask you to give me a definition of faith — what would you say? In your own mind, how would you define faith? The next question is, according to your definition, are you faith filled? Do you have faith? The third question is the same question of the apostles, do you need more faith? You can open up your eyes, and thank you.
I goggled faith and found some pretty good and interesting definitions of faith. One is: Faith is seeing life with your heart, when all your eyes see is darkness. Another is: “Faith is all about believing. You don’t know how it will happen, but you know it will.” One said: “Prayer is the key to heaven, but faith unlocks the door.” One of my favorites, and I am going to ask you to repeat it in a minute, is: “Faith is not knowing what the future holds, but knowing who holds the future.”
Now, if you can, please say it with me: “Faith is not knowing what the future holds, but knowing who holds the future. And who does hold the future? — God."
In our first reading today from the book of Habakkuk, we read that the prophet is really upset. He is upset because things are not going well. They are being invaded, people are dying, the people are not believing in God, and Habakkuk cries out, “God, I keep praying to you. Are you listening to me? Because nothing is happening.” And what does God say, “Patience. Patience. It will happen but give it time.”
Then we find in the second letter of St. Paul to Timothy, Paul says, “Timothy. You have the graces and everything you need to go out and preach the good news, even in bad times, and even when things are not going the way you want them to go. You have the grace and the strength and the courage to do it — so do it.”
Then finally in our Gospel from Luke we see the apostles — and they have been with Jesus now for quite a while — and they see what Jesus does in terms of healing, preaching and making people whole. They also see his connection to God the Father and how he continues to go up into the mountain and pray to God to get the strength to do what he does each day, and he does it very easily. But they doubt themselves and say, “I do not know if I can do what Jesus does. I have faith, but I need more. So give me more faith.”
Then you can see Jesus smiling at them and saying, “You have all the faith that you need.” Then Jesus compares faith to a mustard seed. The mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds but when you plant it, it grows to be one of the biggest bushes and trees you can find. He is saying to them, “You have the seeds of faith. You have everything already in you that you need. You just need to develop it, you need to continue it.”
All of us are like Habakkuk, all of us are like Timothy, all of us are like the disciples. We live in a world that is not perfect by any means. We live in a world, which is full of confusion. We live in a world where a hurricane is on its way to Haiti and who knows what is going to happen. All these things happen and how do we deal with them? Do we deal with them through the eyes of faith, or do we despair? Faith is all about hope. It is all about knowing that God is in control. We may choose to do something God doesn’t want, so be it on us. But if we use our abilities to do what we need, we will have what we need.
The question is: Do we really have faith? If I ask the question, “Do you have faith?” I think every one here would raise your hands because we all do have faith. But there is faith — and then there is faith.
I am going to tell you a story, which you have all heard, but it is very relevant. About 1859 or 1860, there was a man who was a tightrope walker. He went to Niagara Falls and placed a rope across from the U.S. to the Canadian side. He then walked across and there were lots of people there from the United States and Canada and they oohed and aahed at him being able to do that, realizing the danger that was there. Then he takes a gunnysack and walks across and again the crowd oohs and aahs. How can he do that, but he does it. Then he does it again in a number of different ways. Then finally he takes a wheelbarrow on this tightrope and goes all the way across. When he is done the crowd claps and cheers and says how wonderful it is.
He looked at them and asks, “Do you think I could take a person in the wheelbarrow and go across the tightrope?” They yelled, “Oh, yes. There is no question you can do it. No question.” Then he asked, “Who is willing to get into the wheelbarrow?” And no one said, “Yes.”
That is kind of like what faith is. We all say we have it, but do we get into the wheelbarrow? Do we actually do what faith requires of us? What does faith require of us? We can answer it in one word: Stewardship. And if I asked what are the four pillars of stewardship, I know you will all raise your hand and say, “I’ve got them all.”
If you remember, the first pillar in stewardship is hospitality. It means to be hospitable, to be welcoming. Hopefully, and I think we are, a very welcoming parish. I hope when we go home, and we are in places of work, we are also a hospitable and welcoming people.
The second pillar is prayer. I hope you pray to God each day. We come to church on Sunday as a community to worship God, but I hope in our own lives we pray in the morning and at night and before we eat. We have God continually in our lives helping us to make decisions on what we do.
The third is formation. How do we develop a closer relationship with God and learn more about him? Tonight, from 6 to 7:30 we have a kick-off carry-in dinner for faith formation which means there are a number of groups that are starting which you all are invited to be part of, or even start one. So tonight you are all welcome. Bring kids, bring whomever you want. It is in the Gathering Space. The church provides the meat and refreshments, you just need to bring a side dish. The purpose of tonight is to expose to everyone the study groups that the parish is offering. Whether you decide to join one, or not, is up to you. But coming together as a faith community is always a good thing.
Finally, the last pillar is service. That is why every year we have the stewardship service when you fill out the form. However, this is something that can be done any time during the year. You can sign up for any ministry you want whether you want to be in the choir, or an usher, or a lecturer, or on the Lazarus team or whatever it is.
Those are the four pillars that increase our faith. Stewardship helps us in our faith because it helps us continue our discipleship to be close to Christ, and close to one another.
The question to each and every one of us today is: Jesus is the one who is really pushing that wheelbarrow of life from here to eternity. How many of us will say “Yes, we know we can do the tightrope.” How many of us are willing to get into the wheelbarrow, to be stewards, to be disciples, to do what it takes so that we can truly have hope.
So I want to end with us saying the quote that you helped say with me with before: “Faith is not knowing what the future holds, but knowing who holds the future. And the one who holds the future is God. As the Scripture says, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ ”
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Terry Ellerman is a retired educator and serves as a deacon at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Quincy, Illinois.
(TASCAM DR401 Disc D 004)