If you are looking at a particular sermon and it is removed it is because it has been updated.

For example Year C 2010 is being replaced week by week with Year C 2013, and so on.

Friday, 4 October 2019

27th Sunday Year C 2019

 27th. Sunday Year (C)

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

Why did the Apostles say to Jesus: Increase our faith?  Were they imagining some lack of, insufficient ‘quantity’ of, faith given them, for some difficulty or failure on their part?

Luke does not give us any information about what had occasioned this request by the apostles, but, whatever the reason, their request highlighted their ignorance of the true nature of the gift of faith; and Jesus' answer seems intended to nip-in-the-bud any possibility of their doubting God’s providence as His disciples and ministers of the Gospel, by helping them  better appreciate the wondrous power of authentic faith:

If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.

Notice that Jesus did not call their faith into question; He didn’t say, ‘If you had faith’, but, ‘If you have faith as a mustard seed’.  In the Christian life it is not that God’s gifts are insufficient for our real needs, but rather that we, so very, very often, fail to appreciate the wonder of what has already been given us, as St. Paul himself said in the second reading:

            Therefore, I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you.

Let me now give you a short description of the mulberry tree (Barnes' notes) and you will have a clearer idea of the significance of Jesus' parable.

Look, now, at this tree: its ample girth, its wide-spread arms branching off from the parent trunk only a few feet from the ground.  Next, examine its enormous roots: as thick, as numerous, and as wide-spread into the deep soil below as the branches extend into the air above.  What power on earth can pluck up such a tree? Heaven's thunderbolt may strike it down, the wild tornado may tear it to fragments, but, surely, nothing short of miraculous power could pluck it up by the roots."

At that time the apostles still had Jesus with them as the centre of their minds' attention, their hearts’ affections and expectations, and perhaps for that reason they were not, as yet, able to appreciate the power of that supernatural gift of grace which had made them  into disciples and, most especially, Apostles of His.  And so, Jesus now goes on to hint that at a time close to hand He will no longer be with them at their side.  He pictures a time when He Himself will be "resting", and they will be expected to continue working, apparently alone, but, in reality, working on His behalf under the guidance and in the power of, His most Holy Spirit:

Which of you, having a servant ploughing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and sit down to eat'?  But will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink'?

Speaking in this way Jesus opens up a further aspect of the apostles' incomprehension:  God does not bestow His spiritual gifts on his servants for them to possess as do children who cling to, and at times boast of, presents they have received.  God gives us, and most especially His Apostles, His chosen blessings in order that thereby they might live in ever closer communion with Himself, empowered to co-operate in the spread, and promote the understanding, of the  Gospel Good News among all peoples and throughout all times.  Jesus, in short, wanted to counter any possessiveness on the part of the apostles, to protect them from that innate tendency to selfishness and pride that would shortly incite them to argue amongst themselves about which of them was the greatest.   He needed to ward off the perennial threat to all those who are specially gifted, by warning His apostles and their successors, against the pride and arrogance so commonly seen in the  widespread, then and now, abuse of worldly and even spiritual power.

He spoke only a few words because the apostles were not yet ready for more, but the words He chose covered all that needed to be said; and, being simply expressed, certain aspects could be readily understood by the apostles, while the more hidden depths would subsequently be revealed by the Spirit to Mother Church -- who treasures all such words of Jesus in her heart – through all the ages of her mission here on earth:

So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.'

Which, relating to the request they had made so shortly before, meant: ‘bearing in mind that what has been given you, the endowment already bestowed on you by God, is immeasurably superior to whatever may be asked of you as Apostles, you should be saying with heart-felt gratitude and sorrow: We are unprofitable servants; we have only done our duty, we have only done what was well within our power to do.

Jesus was preparing His Apostles for the time when they would soon be without His comforting presence, alone, yet commissioned to proclaim the Good News of their Lord and Saviour to a largely alien world where they must never dream of calling God into question, where they must never ever, allow themselves to indulge in such self-pity.

The prophet Habakkuk had also spoken, as did Jesus, about the time for labour in this world, when rest is longed for but -- though its promise be sure -- its fulfilment is, and has to be, delayed:

Write the vision and make it plain on tablets; (it) is yet for an appointed time, at the end it will speak and will not lie.  Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.

Lovers of this world, the proud, the sinful, cannot abide such delay, for, as you heard, “the rash one has no integrity”,  his soul is not upright in him; he cannot reconcile himself to waiting in trust, neither can he humble himself in the service of a cause where success is not in some way readily apparent or tangible.  Such selfless devotion is only for those whom God has specially blessed, as the prophet's words make abundantly clear:

The just shall live by his faith.

St. Paul told us how God the Father has blessed all who are in Christ Jesus:

Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  

We have been given two gifts in Jesus St. Paul tells us there: the gift of faith to hold fast to ‘the pattern of sound words’ contained in his teaching and that of Mother Church, and the gift of love to seek and serve Jesus P/personally in our daily living of that teaching.  Now, with two such gifts, our call to selflessness does not mean a life of sheer endurance as we journey through a desert of aridity in the face of storms constantly exposing our weakness and anxiety; rather is it a life which, being gradually emptied of self-love, is thereby made ever more capable of receiving the gifts of the Spirit, of being filled to overflowing with the peace, joy, and love which are to be found in Christ Jesus alone.

As Jesus told His disciples, the gifts already given us are sufficient for all our needs:

If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.

And not only are God's gifts sufficient for all our needs, they are more than enough for all our desires!  For faith is a treasure, and love of Jesus is not only the fruit, beauty, and glory of that treasure, but also the tool whereby we can come to appreciate what He has given us ever more and more:

Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit Who dwells in us.

The Apostles had to learn, as we too must learn, that a disciple of Jesus has to work not only outside, in the mission-field of daily life and witness in the world, but also on the inside, in the secret depths of his own being.  The one, true, Faith is not merely a public form of words and practices to be believed and fulfilled, it is also a personal treasure to be quarried and appreciated ever more deeply in one’s mind and heart.  When worked on in that way the treasure which is our Faith yields up great beauty for our inspiration whilst it bestows a godly power, immeasurable indeed, but not one for boasting and self-aggrandisement as the early apostles were tempted to imagine, but one, on the contrary, that empowers us to respond with humble, quiet and consoling, sympathy and ‘adequacy’ to what is now almost ‘within our reach’, as we stretch out with holy obedience for correspondence to the beauty of God's truth, and  with faith-enflamed delight to share more and more in the wonder of His love, thereby inspiring us to become ever more selfless and wholly other, to the extent that, as St. Paul puts it:

It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)

Christ, by the power of His Spirit in us, leads, guides, encourages and empowers us to work ever more at and with our treasure trove of our Catholic and Christian Faith:

Therefore, I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the      laying on of my hands.  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God.

We are not to repeat the failure of those in the time of the prophet Habakkuk who, echoing the horrors of abidingly-sinful humanity, cried out:

Why do You make me see iniquity and cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; strife exists and contention arises, yet You do not save.

The time of rest, the time for rejoicing over the ultimate conquest of evil is not yet.  Jesus Himself is in heavenly glory, but we, His disciples, have work still to do for Him on earth:

Prepare something for My supper, and gird yourself and serve Me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink.

For that purpose, we have been gifted with "the faith and love that is in Christ Jesus"; let us then aspire, with sure confidence and firm hope, to the fulfilment of His promise:

Blessed are those servants whom the Master, when He comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that He will gird Himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.  (Luke 12:37-38)