October 3 2004 - 27th Sunday C
Hab 1, 2... 2, 4 ; 2 Tim 1, 6...14 ; Luke 17, 5-10
H O M I L Y
The prophet Habakkuk lived in a time of trial, when the people of Israel was exposed to invasion and destruction. In his prayer to God he makes his the cry of the people: "Why? ‑‑ Why that violence? Why that destruction?" But his vision ends with a cry of hope: "The just man, because of his faith shall live."
In the second reading we have a text from Paul. By the time he writes that letter Paul is an old man, in captivity, awaiting death, which will not be long in coming. He writes to his disciple Timothy, whom he had ordained through the imposition of his hands. He invites him not be timid and shy about the responsibility he has received, and not to be ashamed of the mission he has to give testimony to his faith in Christ of whom he has been ordained a priest and a bishop.
And, finally, in the Gospel, to the Apostles who say to him, "Increase our faith" Jesus answers: "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, 'Be uprooted and transplanted into the sea', and it would obey you".
There is a common theme running through these three readings, and it is the theme of faith. But what is faith? Are we sure that we have faith in the Lord? Of course, we are all believers; if we were not, we would not be here this morning, celebrating the Eucharist in memory of Christ. But to be a believer means to have beliefs and "to have beliefs" is not necessarily the same thing as "to have faith".
Faith is confidence, it is total trust. And we can have that total trust only in someone whom we know intimately, with whom we have a deep personal relationship, someone whom we love. And here is another important distinction. It is not the same thing to know about some one and to know someone. I may know a lot of things about a person and not really know him or her really. I may have read a biography of Pope John Paul II or of a head of state; I may know all the details of their lives. If I have never met them, if I have not established a personal relationship with them, I cannot say that I know them. It is the same with God. I may have studied a lot of books about God. I may know all the stories of the Old and New Testament. I may know all the things that the Church teaches. If I do not have a personal love relationship with God in prayer, I cannot say that I know him. I only know nice things about him.
This is the reason why Christ, one day, did not only ask his disciples what the others said about him. He asked them: "What do you say that I am?‑‑ do you know me really?" He did not ask them: "What do you say about my teaching, about my miracles, and so on?", but "What do you say that I am?" "Do you know me?"
To have faith in Jesus Christ is to accept to be led by him, or even at times to be carried on his shoulders, often without knowing exactly where he is carrying us. It is to accept that whenever he enters our life, all our existence might be changed. Such was the case of the prophets of the Old Testament; such was the case, most of all of Blessed Mary whose life was radically transformed when she welcomed in herself the Word of God, and became, through that act of faith, the Mother of God.
To be a Christian is not only to belong to an organization that is called the Church, and to follow reasonably well the traffic rules so as to arrive safely at the port of heaven, possibly without being fined too often by the highway patrol. To be a Christian is first of all to have faith in Jesus Christ and to have a personal relationship with him in prayer. The Church then is not so much an organization as the communion of all of those who share in that same faith in the same Son of God. And for those of us who are monks, to be a monk is not only to belong to a monastic community and to live in a monastery without breaking the rules too much. To be a monk is to build all our life around that basic value of a personal relationship with God. And this is what gives its meaning to all the other aspects of our life, which are only so many means in order to arrive at that goal. Those means are important, since we have engaged our honor and our faith in promising publicly to use them faithfully; but they are not the object our faith. There means at the service of our faith.
As we are going to receive, in the Eucharist, Christ who gives himself to us as a food of life, let us say to him with all our heart, like the Apostles did: "Lord, increase our faith."