27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): The Great Catholic Privilege and Thus the Great Catholic Duty

Father THOMAS IDERGARD SJ

Homily for 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2019-10-06

Year C: Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4; Ps 95; 1 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14; Luke 17:5-10

St. Eugenia Catholic Church, Stockholm (English Mass)

 

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

In the gospel, we heard the Apostles asking Jesus for help to increase their faith. In his answer we heard Jesus first saying that they don’t need more faith, but to use the faith they already have. As he explains, a tiny, little bit, as it were, of faith, in the size of a mustard seed – as small as anything can get without getting microscopic – is enough to do marvellous things. Then, Jesus quite harshly tells them, through a parable, that making use of their little but tremendously powerful faith, simply is their duty.

Like the Apostles, we also know we are capable of allowing God to work much more, for greater things, through and with us. But if we are not spiritually lazy and don’t care, we are often too stuck in “ifs” and “buts” to allow it to be done. We find things that need to be different – more time, more knowledge, more courage or whatever – and tend to forget that God already has given us everything we need for getting his job done.

As the Apostle Paul reminds in our second reading from Second Timothy: through baptism and confirmation – the laying of hands – God has not given us “a spirit of timidity, but … of power, love and self-control”. The apostolic teaching of the Church is, we heard him saying, the “sound teaching” that we are not to hide, manipulate or change, but “to look after” as “something precious”. To “guard” it, i.e. to preserve it by faithfulness to sacred tradition, to be sure we do not proclaim faith in ourselves or what is temporarily popular. And “with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us” convey it to the world through words and deeds.

Pope Francis has proclaimed this October of 2019 as an extraordinary month of mission, to remind us that the essence of the Church is Mission. The Gospel is not something we are meant to cling for our own benefit. Rather, it is like seed to be given away. Our love for our neighbour, i.e. our will for the other’s best, is ultimately measured by how much we want him or her to meet Christ. In a new pastoral letter, the Nordic Catholic Bishops remind us that every baptized and confirmed faithful is sharing in the mission to give a “living testimony to the fidelity to our Lord Jesus, on poverty and non-selfishness, on freedom towards the powers of this world, or with a single word, on holiness”.

The Nordic bishops therefore, particularly for this month, invite us to direct our prayers for a concrete missionary field or a missionary project, at home or abroad, especially with the Rosary and in adoration before the blessed sacrament, available in this church every Friday between 5pm and 6pm. They also exhort us to set aside time and money to support concrete missionary activities in and through the parish. A gift to St. Eugenia’s Emergency account or Caritas is always welcome. Through their efforts, aid is given to the most in need as, and in, an open proclamation of the faith in Christ.

As Catholics we are particularly privileged. The Second Vatican Council teaches that the Church of Christ fully subsists, i.e. is actualized, in the Catholic Church. Through her visible structures, her teaching in full continuity with the apostles, regardless of changing rulers and opinions of the world, and through her seven sacraments conferring God’s supernatural grace, i.e. his gift of himself to transform our nature by elevating it to his eternal life, starting here and now. Other Christian communities, sadly broken away from the Church, indeed have “elements of sanctification and of truth”[1], derived from the Church once abandoned and pointing towards the need for a full, visible unity.

Thus, with access to all necessary means of salvation in their complete form, this Catholic privilege means a greater responsibility. We ought to stand in the frontline of Christian mission everywhere. Fear the least, sacrifice the most. In our everyday life at work, in school, in our neighbourhoods, among friends. In our actions for the common good of our societies. And in our support for worldwide mission activities.

The nature of the faith we are called to share, was closer examined in our first reading from the Prophet Habakkuk, complaining to God about the Babylonian destruction of the Kingdom of Judah in the 6th century B.C. A strong faith does not mean we won’t suffer or be confused. It doesn’t take away our crosses. On the contrary, it puts crosses on us, as we suffer for the truth about God and the human being; a truth not popular as it doesn’t confirm us in all that we are and do, what we want and feel, at the present.

But a strong faith does show us where to turn when the crosses come: to God. And we heard how God answers Habakkuk, promising he will act to restore the fortunes of his people, but without details. God even seems to imply that it may take longer than Habakkuk would like.

God is not far from our sufferings. He watches over us and promises that if we continue to have faith in him, in spite of suffering and hardship, we “will live”, in the way he makes possible, which is the best of all ways because it considers our eternal good. That, which we often cannot see. Thus, we have a description of the life of Jesus Christ, God incarnate, showing us who God is and whom we can become with him. Christian faith is not a problem-free philosophy. It is strength with length. The power to persevere through difficulties, based on trust that our loving Father ultimately is in charge.

Our responsorial psalm clearly summarized what we need in order to do our duty, for our faith to live in its full power: viz. to “listen to his voice” and not “harden” our “hearts”. Christian faith is practical. If we believe in God’s wisdom, love and power made visible in Jesus Christ, we will obey and follow him, through his presence in his Holy Church, irrespective of the sins of us presently here. Within the framework of the Church, we will seek to better know Christ and his teaching, receive him literally into us in the sacraments and understand his personal calling of each one of us.

This is the way God strengthens us to move mountains; the mountains of sin and sorrow permeating us and the world. This is the way God guides us home, from exile to the inner peace and prosperity of his Kingdom; within us in space and time, no matter what happens to us, and fulfilled by him alone on the last day. Amen.

[1] Lumen Gentium, 8

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