Homily, Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
This Sunday’s Gospel, (Lk 17:5-10), focused on faith and the positive effect it should have on our daily living. Faith is one of the theological virtues, (virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do good CCC 1803), which include hope and love, (1 Cor 13:13). These theological virtues together with the cardinal virtues – prudence, temperance, fortitude, justice, form the seven virtues each person needs to adequately worship God and live in harmony with one’s neighbours.
Immediately leading to this week’s Gospel passage, Jesus had warned his disciples of the dire consequences of being the source of scandal that will lead to the downfall of other believers, referred to as “the little ones.” (Lk 17:1-3). He then urged his disciples to be watchful. Secondly, Jesus gave instruction on forgiveness. He taught that we should rebuke our brother or sister when he/she misbehaves. However, we should forgive them each time they apologise for offending us, (Lk 17:3-4).
The Apostles of Jesus having listened to his teachings on the consequences of being an agent of scandal and on unlimited forgiveness, felt that they needed their faith to be strengthened to enable them to be faithful disciples. The Apostles realised that they were weak and could make mistakes, and being Jews, they were familiar with the Mosaic teaching of an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, (Ex 21:24), and the rabbinic teaching that after the third forgiveness to the offender, one is free to avenge any other harm done to him/her.
When the Apostles asked Jesus to increase their faith, he responded by saying that, ”Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” Jesus used this expression to underscore that even little faith can accomplish mighty works. We see this manifested in the lives of ordinary men and women who have accomplished extra-ordinary things. The Apostles themselves are prime examples of ordinary people who through the grace of God made a difference in the world. We know that the leader of the Apostles, (Peter), was a fisherman. Yet, it was to the community of believers led by the Apostles that Jesus gave the command after his resurrection to go and make disciples of all the nations and baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Mt 28).
The Lord strengthening our faith is important because our faith is at times dampened by some catastrophic events either happening in our lives or around us. In the First Reading from the Book of Habakkuk, (Hab1:2-3; 2:2-4), Prophet Habakkuk gave a voice to the turmoil in Israel in the late 7th century BC. The breakdown in social justice and the looming threat from the Babylonians, meant that the Israelite society was living in chaos and fear . Hence the cry from Prophet Habakkuk, “How long, Lord, am I to cry for help while you will not listen; to cry ‘Oppression!’ in your ear and you will not save? Why do you set injustice before me, why do you look on where there is tyranny, outrage and violence, this is all I see.” Habakkuk wept for the Israelite situation and this is known as the Prayer of Lamentation. Habakkuk’s cry mirrors the cries of some individuals, families and communities even today, especially those facing starvation or severe drought or war or betrayal.
The Lord assured Prophet Habakkuk that everything was not gloom and doom, there was glitter of hope; and that hope is that the righteous person “will live by his faithfulness.” This links us with the Second Reading, (2 Tim 1:6-8, 13-14), where Paul asked Timothy to fan into flame the gifts God gave him when he was ordained as the chief shepherd. God’s gifts in us should not remain latent but should be rekindled. This will enable us to put ourselves at the service of the Good News according to our state in life.
We are all called to be servants! Even in civil society we talk about civil and public servants. We are all invited to imitate Jesus who did not come to be served but to serve and to offer his life as a ransom for all. Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp