One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

October 07, 2007

For the Twenty-Seventh Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

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

Today the apostles speak to Christ as God.
They ask him for something only God can give.
They ask him to increase their faith.
Surely each of us has prayed many times for the same.
The apostles ask the Lord to increase their faith because he had just given them two hard sayings.
First, he said that rather than tempt others to sin, a man would be better off thrown into the sea with a big stone collar to make sure he drowned and rotted at the bottom of the sea.
Second, our Lord said if a man sins against us, we are to rebuke him, and if he repents we must forgive him; and if he keeps on sinning, but repenting, we must keep on forgiving.
Hearing the Lord command us to forgive endlessly anyone who sins endlessly against us but always repents, and hearing the Lord’s murderous words for anyone who tempts another to sin, it is only natural to pray, “Lord, then increase our faith!”
How does our Lord answer?
He says two more things today that only add to the difficulty.
First: if we had even less than a pinch of faith—then at our command a tree would fly and transplant itself into the sea.
Second— and hardest of all: our Lord says no matter how many times we have forgiven anyone, no matter if our faith is tiny or tremendous, and no matter if we’ve worked hard at making trees fly, at plowing or ranching, at cooking, at waiting tables, or at any other job, we will still have no credit.
Instead, our Lord tells us to say, “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.”
Today in his Gospel our Lord is a hard man.
We hear the prophet Habakkuk today complaining for us in the first reading.
How long, O Lord?
I cry for help,
but you do not listen.
I cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not intervene.
Why do you let me see ruin?
Why must I look at misery?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and clamorous discord.

The apostle St. Paul also recognizes the difficulty of following our Lord, and he exhorts us today in the second reading to “bear your share of hardship for the Gospel.”
Our Lord’s Gospel brings a share of hardship.
If we give our attention today only to his words, then hardship is all that we will find.
However, if we recognize the Lord himself as the embodied example of his own teaching, then in his own life we see the hard stones of his Gospel soften, swell, sprout, grow, bloom, and bear fruit, giving food, life and joy.
Our sinfulness fills history and the human landscape with the dry stones of suffering and death.
It was the Lord who finally came as a servant to plow the field of our humanity, and to sow it with himself as truth, goodness, and life.
Did he not also come as the shepherd to rescue us from our own wilderness?
Did God not also come as a servant into our earthly city to prepare a supper for us out of his own flesh and blood?
On that night he was betrayed, did he not put on an apron and lower himself to wash our feet?
And we— each new time we sin against him, even after all he has done for us— do we not say to him in the mindlessness of our sins, “You are an unprofitable servant; you have done what you were obliged to do.”
That is what we who claim to be “Christians” really say to Christ each time we choose to sin.
What the Lord has done was not his obligation.
It is OURS.
For our eternal salvation, he served the Father in our name.
In all his sacraments, from himself, from his own flesh and blood, the Son of God breathes out upon us and into us the same Spirit by which he offers himself to the Father as a living sacrifice of saving praise on our behalf.
Today St. Paul reminds us in the second reading that the Lord gives us the same Spirit through his apostles.
I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition [the laying on] of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather [a Spirit] of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel
with the strength that comes from God
Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me,
in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.

That is the vision of believing and following Christ.
Of that vision, we hear the prophet say today:
the vision still has its time,
presses on to fulfillment,
and will not disappoint;
if it delays, wait for it;
it will surely come,
it will not be late.
The rash one has no integrity;
but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.

Through our faith, the Lord has already given himself to us in Spirit, flesh, and blood.
If we believe, eat, drink, and OBEY the Lord who is truth, then he is already pulling our roots out of the parched earth of sin, and is replanting us in the sea of his own Spirit and life.

That God Be Glorified in All


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