1st Reading — Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4
From Celebration, October 2004:
If scholars are right, Habakkuk might have been a contemporary of Jeremiah. He is probably here lamenting the destruction of Judah by King Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army. He is probably also lamenting the corruption that took place in Judah before the fall. Yet, he is told that he must trust in a vision that can yet come to be. With this vision comes an assurance of God’s love and care even though there is destruction and suffering. He was told to write down this vision; in other words, make it permanent. And, it is to be in large, legible letters so that all the people may see it, read it, hold on to it – a public display of faith in the midst of tragedy. This is faith that gives life.
Br. David Steindl-Rast’s gratefulness, the heart of prayer:
How difficult it is to live in the creative tension of hope, the tension between not-yet and already!…Some people imagine that hope is the highest degree of optimism, a kind of super-optimism. I get the image of someone climbing higher and higher to the most fanciful pinnacle of optimism, there to wave the little flag of hope. A far more accurate picture would be that hope happens when the bottom drops out of our pessimism. We have nowhere to fall but into the ultimate reality of God’s motherly caring (p. 126, 136) Can you go to that difficult place inside of you and feel the same lament as Habakkuk? Have you sensed God there too? How does faith help us in these moments?
2nd Reading – 2 Timothy 1: 6-8, 13-14
By the time of this writing, many have given their lives for the faith in Christ; others have endured increasing difficulties and hardships. (Some have also fallen away or fallen into heresy –see 1:15, 2:17-18 and 4:9) This writer wants to use the example of Paul’s imprisonment and suffering along with some of perhaps Paul’s own words to encourage others to use their faith to live with courage, power, love and self control. (Celebration, October 2004)
We hear Paul telling Timothy to seek God’s help through “the imposition of my hands” and “the sound words that you heard from me”. In other words, Timothy should feel hope in the Lord because of how the Lord works through Paul. Don’t we often find hope in the Lord through each other too? The warmth of a loving touch and comforting words can be all we need to get through a really hard day. It gives a whole new meaning to “being there” for someone. We bring God into that accompaniment when we have faith.
What does “stir into flame” conjure up for you? Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God, It will flame out like shining from shook foil.” Some reflection questions around fire:
- What is the invitation of fire for you this day?
- What is blazing in your heart?
- Where do you need the fire of courage in your life?
- What keeps you from living your life with an awareness of this holy fire within you?
- What ignites you with sacred passion for the world?
- What would it mean for you to truly become fire? (Questions taken from C. Paintner’s water, wind, earth & fire, p. 61)
R. Rolheiser in The Holy Longing describes spirituality as, “about what we do with the fire inside of us, about how we channel our eros…It is the principle of energy. Life is energy. There is only one body that does not have any energy or tension within it, a dead one. The soul is what gives life. Inside it, lies the fire, the eros, the energy that drives us,” (p. 11-12).
The Gospel – Luke 17: 5-10
This whole chapter in Luke’s gospel is about “the decisiveness and urgency of discipleship.” We cannot just wait (or even pray) until we have enough faith, for then we may never begin living as the servants we are called to be. A seed is small, but it is filled with potential ‘power’ for growth. Jesus wants to convince us that our faith is like this. We must ‘burst open’ like a planted seed allowing growth and new life to begin.
“We must use what we have.” Jesus then shows us what the faithful disciple looks like – one who not only works the fields, but also serves at table. In fact, as we put this all together we see that serving at table is as great as moving trees – and other more amazing feats of faith! Jesus, like many good preachers of his time, loved to use hyperbole and humor to get his point across. (Living Liturgy, Cycle C, p.220)
What do you think of the phrase “unprofitable servants”? The Greek adjective that is used here actually means “without need.” Although it is translated here as ‘unprofitable’ it seems to mean more that this servant is without the need for ‘pay.’ He is not motivated by reward or recompense. As servants of an all-merciful and loving God we need to do everything with gratitude that we have been called to serve such a ‘master.’ We are servants that are ‘due nothing,’ because all we have has been given to us with love. (John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context, liturgy.slu.edu)