Our Mundane and Miraculous Life of Faith
User's Guide to Sunday, Oct. 2
Oct. 2 is the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C). Mass Readings: Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4; Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9; 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14; Luke 17:5-10.
“Increase our faith,” the apostles implore Jesus. His answers reveal a tension at the heart of the life of faith.
He answers with two seemingly contradictory pieces of advice.
First, he tells them about the extraordinary results of faith: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.’”
Second, he tells them the ordinary results of faith: After a day of working in the field, a servant will have to come in and work even more. “So should it be with you,” he says. “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done only what we were obliged to do.’”
So the life of faith should make miracles happen — and the life of faith is also a journey of work.
In the second reading, St. Paul reminds Timothy that he has been transformed miraculously by the sacraments “through the imposition of my hands” — and this transformation means Timothy must “bear your share of the hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.”
Paul says the trick to accomplishing the hard part of the faith life is to be reminded of its glories. “I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands,” he said. “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power and love and self-control.”
In order to live the hard part, we need to turn to God to remember the good part. In the first reading, Habakkuk tells us this is harder than it sounds. He gives his own lesson in keeping faith:
“Write down the vision … for the vision still has its time,” he is told. “If it delays, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not be late.”
This advice is essentially a reverse version of Paul: Expect great things from faith, and let those things lead you on through the hardship and struggle.
Every week the Church celebrates saints whose lives show exactly this. At the start of October, we celebrate St. Francis of Assisi (Oct. 4), whose faith was marked by extraordinary experiences on the one hand and also a joyful, but difficult, life marked by suffering. We also celebrate Our Lady of the Rosary (Oct. 7). The Rosary is both a long prayer, which can be tedious for some people, and a rejuvenating opportunity, which may be used to reflect on the startling, history-changing events of the life of Jesus Christ.
It is just like our lives of faith: a long slog punctuated by miracles.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.
His book, What Pope Francis Really Said, is available at Amazon.com.