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27th Sunday of Ordinary Time 2013

Much of what we read in the Bible is where the Lord (through the prophets) tells us how special we are... God's chosen ones, a people he has taken unto himself.  Sounds pretty good, right?  But then there are those other parts of the Bible where the Lord tells us that we have no right to claim any special privileges... even though we've been chosen.  What's going on there?  Sounds to me like our Scripture is giving us mixed messages... is it?  Let's see what our readings tell us this week... 

The Word for the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time:
        Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4
        Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
        2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14
        Luke 17:5-10

Our opening reading from Habakkuk shares the same passion employed by Amos, Isaiah, and Jeremiah to condemn the social abuses of their day.  To put this into context, Habakkuk’s ministry started about 140 years after Amos’ ministry.  Amos, a Northern prophet born in the South, spoke of the fall to come.  By the time of Habakkuk, Israel (the Northern Kingdom) had already fallen, and Nebuchadnezzar's forces are on Judah’s doorstep (although this is not clear on the reading of these passages).  The “violence” Habakkuk is referring to is the immanent destruction of Judah which in this case has the enemy acting as the hand of the God for the sins of Judah.  Habakkuk is crying out to the Lord for help, a complaint that lasts the remainder of the chapter as our text jumps ahead to the next chapter where the Lord answers, and assures Habakkuk all is not lost… “the just one, because of his faith, shall live.”  The words echo what the letter to Timothy said last week… “compete well for the faith.”  A theme that is carried forward to this week.

Our second reading continues our study of the Pauline letters to Timothy, moving to the beginning of the 2nd letter where Paul prays that his words will reassure Timothy in his mission.  But what is his mission?  While we know from the 1st letter that Timothy is a leader in the community and a “man of God,”  we don’t learn that Timothy is actually a priest until today’s reading from the 2nd letter.  How do we know he is a priest?  Because the text reminds him to… “stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.”  This action – the imposition of hands – is the sign of Timothy’s call to the priesthood, and  also provides us with our primary topic for the week… the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  Our passage for this week is meant not only a reminder of what Timothy was called to do, but that he can also find strength in that calling… as can we.

Our Gospel is again a continuation of where we (pretty much) left off last week, and like the previous weeks, gives us another story and parable that are unique to Luke’s Gospel.  Here we have the Apostles asking Jesus to, “increase our faith.”  Jesus responds by saying that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed (reminding us of the parable of the mustard seed several chapters back), they would be able to do great things.  In other words, a little faith goes a long way... yet the Apostles seem to want more, so he gives us the Parable of the Master and Servant.  It is a difficult parable and requires some unpacking, but the idea is that we should not anticipate reward for doing what is expected.  This is more than just humility… it is a reminder that those who serve should not expect special treatment.

So... no special treatment?  Aren't we the chosen ones?  Why go to all this trouble then?  Look back at what Habakkuk says... "the vision (eternal life) will not disappoint."  It's also like we learned from the Parable of the Prodigal Son which we heard a couple weeks ago... when the father tells the eldest son that, "everything I have is yours."  As God's chosen, he's told us what we can expect, but that doesn't excuse us from out duties... from keeping up our end of the covenant... to love our neighbor, to serve... and in doing so, we learn that we need nothing else.

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