A common thread of today’s readings is that the Lord’s disciples, old and new, are looking for more of what they need in order to fulfill their mission, perhaps discouraged by a lack of immediate results. The Lord’s response is an invitation to renewed patience, zeal, faith, and service.
Habakkuk in today’s First Reading laments the injustice he sees and the prayers to the Lord to do something about it seemingly remaining unanswered. The Lord’s response is to remind Habakkuk, as the Lord’s prophet, do continue doing his duty. Impatience makes us question why we do the things we do, and in the spiritual life that impacts our zeal and service. We are able to learn even today thanks the words Habakkuk wrote down at the Lord’s command. He didn’t give up his duties as the Lord’s prophet just because it seemed there were no results. The Lord reminds him, as us, that his designs (described in the reading as his “vision”) continue moving to fulfillment. The Savior has now come in our midst. The battle against sin continues, but Our Lord has already won the war. When we see the final outcome in Heaven we will see that it was all worthwhile.
Today’s Second Reading is part of a letter of encouragement that Timothy receives from his imprisoned mentor Paul, who encourages him to be brave and re-stoke the flame of zeal that he received at ordination. Timothy has big shoes to fill, and Paul, whom he esteems greatly, is now in prison. That’d give anyone cause for discouragement. When Paul refers to a flame given through the imposition of hands he is referring to the gift of the Holy Spirit handed down through administering the sacrament of Holy Orders. The Holy Spirit gives all the gifts described by Paul: power, love, and self-control. We add zeal and courage to the mix. Both zeal and courage are needed by Timothy as he transitions from a priestly role to the tasks now expected of a bishop. Timothy needs to muster enough courage and zeal to inspire those same qualities in his flock too.
The disciples in today’s Gospel ask for more faith and Our Lord responses that even a little faith would go a long way; the apostles are asking for more faith because the little faith they have doesn’t seem to be enough to do their job. Our Lord tells them a parable to put things into perspective. A servant doesn’t expect some special reward for just doing his job; he just does it. Faith is not just an attitude; it is action and struggle, and only grows with prayer and effort. Our Lord invites us today to focus on the task at hand of our current mission, not the imagined resources we may be lacking, the possibility of failure, or the other missions we could be doing. Habakkuk is told to write down his prophecies and thanks to that we now have them. Timothy is told to be a good shepherd of souls and the Church, thanks to him, continued to grow. The apostles are told to do their duty expecting nothing other than the satisfaction of a job well done, and we all have the apostles to thank for receiving the faith. The prophecies were fulfilled in Christ and the Gospel has triumphed in so many lives and will continue to do so. Whatever your state of life–laity, consecrated, ordained–focus on how you can best serve Our Lord right here, right now, with the resources, spiritual and material, that you have at your disposal and Our Lord will ensure that you succeed.
Make some extra time this week (or soon) to renew yourself spiritually. Spiritual reading, extra Eucharistic adoration, or just some extra quiet time in conversation with Our Lord are all ways to re-ground yourself and renew your desire to live a good and holy life. If your parish organizes evenings of reflection or retreats, don’t neglect these moments to take time out and work out things with Our Lord, not on the fly.
Readings: Habakkuk 1:2–3, 2:2–4; Psalm 95:1–2, 6–9; 2 Timothy 1:6–8, 13–14; Luke 17:5–10. See also 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C and 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday.