Tuesday, September 27, 2016

27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Patience.  It’s a quality that many people have lost in our world of instant gratification.  Items can be purchased on Amazon and delivered the same day.  Not only have we eliminated that whole strolling through the mall way of shopping, but we’re even eliminating that bothersome next day delivery… because waiting even a day would be just too long.  Studies have shown that we even take for granted that knowledge itself can be instantaneous through our  mobile devices, so much so that our minds are no longer exercised enough to be able to store that knowledge in our long term memory.  Our readings this week, however, tell us a different story… that good things will come but not as soon as we would like:

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 first reading is from the book of the prophet Habakkuk.  A minor prophet from whom we only hear from this once in the full three year cycle of the Sunday Lectionary.  Still, his prophecy should give us pause.  Like Amos from 140 some years before, Habakkuk is preaching a warning of destruction that should not be ignored.  Why?  As it turns out, the “ruin of Joseph” we heard from Amos last week has came to pass.  The Northern Kingdom of Israel has fallen to the Assyrians, and now Habakkuk is warning about the pending destruction of Judah… and with good cause, because King Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian forces are on Judah’s doorstep.  But even though he can’t shake this vision of “violence,” he also sees that this vision too will pass, and that the Lord will not disappoint.  Our Psalm echoes Habakkuk’s feelings when we sing “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”  We may be despondent over the current situation, but with faith the Lord will see us through to better things.

Our second reading takes us to the beginning of Paul’s second letter to Timothy.  While the first letter to Timothy recognized him as “a man of God,” this second letter confirms his ordination to the priesthood when we read Paul’s exhortation to “stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.”  The imposition of hands being the Sacramental sign for Holy Orders.  While Paul is teaching Timothy that he can find strength from the Holy Spirit in this calling, it also reminds us that we too can turn to the Holy Spirit for the strength to follow Christ.

Our Gospel from Luke continues close to where we left off last week.  The Apostles are concerned that they don’t have what it takes to live up to their mission.  They ask Jesus to “Increase our faith,” as if that would make their work easier.  Jesus knows it would not, and gives us another story unique to Luke’s Gospel, the Parable of the Master and the Servant.  In other words, just because they were chosen by Jesus himself, they should not expect special treatment.  Their mission is to serve, not to be served, and it is a task they need to undertake with humility.  They have been called to serve, and like Habakkuk and Timothy, and even our new St. Theresa of Calcutta, they found strength through fulfilling their duty.

Final thoughts:
Take a look around the next time you’re standing in line for something.  What do you see… chances are most everyone is looking down at some mobile device… that is, if you’re not too busy looking down at your own.  We are addicted to the “now.”  Instant information, instant notification.  I can’t call it “communication” because that would imply a thought process that generally is not applied in these cases… no contemplation, no consideration, no filters… just blurting out what comes to mind so others can blurt out a response.  It’s social Armageddon!

We want what we want and we want it now.  In many ways our great society has regressed to the tantrums of a two-year-old.  But that’s not how great societies work.  That’s not how Church works.  Great societies know that it takes education, apprenticeship and hard work to build and maintain a life.  Church teaches that the prize of eternal life comes only after a life of service.  In both scenarios there is likely to be suffering and hardship, but the faith and love of others can pull us through.  We need to reconnect with the ancient wisdom that teaches that patience is a virtue.  It’s not always about the destination but the journey.  Moreover, reminding ourselves to not keep our heads buried in the sand of our mobile devices, but that we need to look up and experience the journey.

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