Reflection for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
Have you ever boarded an airplane to any destination? Did you know the pilot’s qualifications and the engine’s working conditions before boarding? If your answer is no, as I could guess, something gave you the boldness to entrust your precious life to the hands of an unknown person and an unverified machine.
Have you ever enjoyed a good meal in a choice restaurant? Did you care to know who prepared the meal and the cooking conditions? Something must have assured you that the food was safe and healthy, and it was so. Like in the first, FAITH is the “something” we are talking about.
Faith with hope and love make up what we traditionally know as theological virtues drawing from St. Paul’s teaching on the three things that would last: “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13).
They are called theological virtues because they are infused into us by God and lead us to God. We can say that they were part of the essential things God breathed on man to make him a living being after fashioning him from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7).
The Faith Trial
The outcry in the First Reading from the prophecy of Habakkuk (1:2-3; 2:2-4) is an instance of painful desperation and trial of faith. The victim complained about God’s silence in the face of violence and misery.
This could rightly be the experience of someone reading this reflection. You could be going through some painful moments, and the more you pray and cry out to God, the more the situation seems to get worse. You might even be at the point of doubting if God still exists.
Before you conclude that God has abandoned you or does not care, listen to the response to the outcry of the distressed. God says there is an appointed time for vindication, and it will not fail; if it delays, wait for it. Finally, and more importantly, He says that the just shall live by faith.
The Just Shall Live by Faith! But how?
A child received a gift from his uncle on his birthday. The mom was expecting the child to show her the gift, and when the child didn’t show up, she went to his room and asked, “what do you do when you receive a gift from someone?” And the child responded and said, “mom, when you get a gift, you open it, and that’s what I am doing now.”
The child may be morally wrong, but his answer instructively tells us that we need to open the gift of faith we have received from God. Do we all have faith? Yes! Do we activate it? Not everyone. Faith needs to be activated to become a functional virtue in our lives. Therefore, the just lives by faith only when it is activated to become functional.
The Mustard Seed Faith vs. The Mulberry Tree Challenge
In the Gospel Reading (Luke 17:5-10), we hear the apostles asking our Lord Jesus Christ to increase their faith. First, we understand from their request that they already have faith but desire an increase. However, they did not know that faith increases by qualitative activation and not by quantitative addition.
In his response to their request, our Lord said, “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”. Mustard seed, representing faith, is about 2.5mm (0.1inch) compared to a full-grown 20 meters mulberry tree, representing a challenge.
From the statement, our Lord Jesus Christ, we understand that the power of faith is not a product of size but the strength of the heartful declarations we make upon our convictions about God and what He can do. So, by faith, we believe, say it, and it happens!
Moving Forward: Finding the Three Paths to Faith
You may be wondering how you can activate your faith. Is it by just believing and making declarations? No! There are paths to faith. Faith cannot function outside the range of love. St. Paul tells us that love conquers and endures all things (1 Cor. 13:7) as God is love (1 John 4:8). So, for your faith to work, you must have the virtue of love.
The next path to faith is hope. Hope is the expectation of a positive outcome beyond the current situation. Hope keeps us going even when it does not make sense, so it is impossible to faith it without hope. St. Paul tells us in the Letter to the Romans (5:5) that hope does not disappoint.
Finally, patience is a dependable pathway to faith. Patience enables us to wait for God to act (Psalm 37:7). The underlying response to the outcry of Habakkuk in the First Reading is patience in the face of trials, as those who wait for the Lord shall have their strength renewed. So, we learn that faith is insufficient without the support power of patience. So, if you come with faith, do not forget your patience.
God bless you!