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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Hab 1:2-3; 2:2-4 / Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9 / 2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14 / Lk 17:5-10

Looking at the Gospel selection today, the request from the apostles to our Lord to increase their faith comes immediately after the Lord has talked about the dire consequences of sin. If the iniquity of any one of them should cause one of the little ones to sin he says that it would be better for him to have a millstone tied around his neck and to be thrown into the sea. He tells them to be on their guard and to always be quick to forgive, again and again, a contrite brother. They know their sinfulness and their hardness of hearts. Their request for increased faith is literally a petition to be changed. Jesus affirms that they are men of little faith, still self-preoccupied and burdened by their sinfulness. He pulls no punches. But he also does not want to make it easy for them. Their request is almost like the servant bossing the master around. Jesus puts them back into their place.

Their faith will increase and their discipleship will mature, not with a magical wave of Christ’s hand, but by their experience (as companions) of Christ’s fidelity to the Father, even unto the Cross. They, like us, are changed by walking with the Lord. Faith is indeed a supernatural gift, but it is mediated and nurtured by openness to the truth and a willingness to follow God where ever he might lead us. There is indeed a mystery here because for some faith seems to come easily in the midst of innocence and for others it is polished and fashioned under the crucible of opposition, struggle and pain.

Jesus wants them to start seeing with God’s eyes. He tells them a brief parable about a master coming in from his work and how he would approach his servant. Would he tend to the needs of the servant or expect the servant to give him food and drink? Obviously, the rhetorical answer is he would expect the servant to care for him. Given that society, knowing that the servant merely did his duty, there is not even any special gratitude. Jesus knew the minds of his followers and he knew there was still a problem with their disposition for faith. Several times we hear requests from apostles in the Gospels for special places of leadership and the question, “What is in it for us?” Toward the end of his ministry in this world, our Lord will return to the theme of servant. He will tell them that the one who would be the first must be the last and the servant of all. He will give them the example of washing the feet. Humility is important for Christian faith. When you have rendered your service to God and charity toward your fellow men and women, our response should simply be, “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.” God gifts his friends with faith and he will give us a share in Christ’s reward, not because we deserve it but because he loves us. Ironically, it is this love which ultimately answers the parable question in an entirely different way. He asks, “Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’?” Only at the end of the Gospel can the apostles answer this question. Jesus himself is the master, who after his work for our redemption is the one who feeds us with his body and blood from his altar-table. He has done all the work, and yet he takes upon himself the role of servant in caring for the lesser servants of God. God’s plans in the world and in us come about in God’s own good time.

Turning to the other Sunday Scriptures, the prophet Habakkuk has a dire vision of destruction. There is a great deal of internal corruption in Judah. God will punish them through the Chaldeans. The text jumps somewhat, skipping 13 verses, to where God tells the prophet to write down his vision. The selection ends with confidence in God’s justice, “…but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.” Similarly, in the New Testament, our participation by faith in the righteousness of Christ grants us a share in his eternal life. We were sinners but in the Lord there was forgiveness and hope. The end of the Gospel is an apparent scene of despair and destruction. All seems lost. But faith sustains those who trust in the Lord and who witness his resurrection. We too need an abiding faith, knowing that God will make things right according to his providence.

Paul’s letter makes similar connections. Everything appears dim and the apostle must face captivity. He writes to Timothy about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and admonishes, “Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” God’s people and ministers can build upon the testimony of the Gospel. It becomes an occasion for our encounter in faith with the Lord. Just as he must face his hardship for the Good News with courage, he tells us all not to be ashamed or afraid to “bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.”

The psalm response speaks to our receptivity in regards to God’s presence and the gift of faith he wants to sow in us: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Notice the admonitions in our responsorial: the Lord is our “ROCK;” we enter into his presence “with thanksgiving;” we “bow down in worship;” we “kneel before the Lord;” he created us and we belong to him; and he is the shepherd and we are his flock. All that we have and all that we are is dependent upon God. God’s people of old forgot him and judgment fell upon them. We must never forget! Our Lord was betrayed and abandoned by his friends. Did they forget all that he did? Did they forget his promises? Did they forget his prophetic words about what he must endure and overcome? We must never forget!

When times get tough for us and we become afraid, where is our confidence in Jesus?

When the bills are mounting and our job is not working out, where is our trust in the Lord?

When our family forgets us and friends betray us, where is the love and peace we know in Christ?

As a renowned preacher once said, “Tough times never last, tough people do!” God’s grace remains with those who keep faith in Christ. He can sustain us to weather the storms of life and even the coming judgment itself. If the entire world should forget God and his goodness, we must never forget!