Commentary on the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

1st Reading — Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4

From Boadt’s Reading the Old Testament, p. 358-9:  Habakkuk lived shortly after Nahum and describes a time when Babylon was taking over the Near East from the fallen Assyrians.  He describes Babylon as the scourge of God causing terror everywhere.  But in the end, Habakkuk climbs his watchtower to wait for a word from the Lord.  God sends the word that is to be declared clearly and plainly to all even if it is very slow in coming about:  the righteous who believe will live, the wicked will not succeed.  Together with Zephaniah and Nahum, these prophetic books represent a resurgence of trust in the might power of God to turn the tide of world tyrants.  May we continue to have this kind of trust!

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

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?  (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. 

From Pilch’s The Cultural World of Jesus, p. 146-147:  In the ancient Middle-Eastern world every family, even relatively poor ones, had at least one servant.  The very poorest families gave some of their children to other families as servants to ensure that they would be fed.  The master in this parable apparently has only one servant who both tends the fields and does the cooking.  The thrust of the story is clear and straightforward.  Good servants do what they are told.  A master never has to thank a servant for doing what was expected. 

Literally, the Greek adjective for “unprofitable” is “without need.” The New English Bible captures this sense in its rendition:  “We are servants and deserve no credit.”  Jesus’ demands of forgiveness, loyalty, and the surrendering of an entitlement mentality still challenge us today.

From Fichtner’s Many Things in Parables, p. 101:  As the people of God, we never earn a covenantal relationship to him, nor is he ever indebted to us.  He sets up a covenant of love with us freely, of his own initiative, out of the superabundance of his heart.  His goodness is diffusive pf itself.  Whatever our good works, whatever our sacrifices, whatever our achievements in life, whatever the long years of faithful service to him and his people, we have neither claim not right to reward.  Because all is gift from him, all is grace, we remain “unprofitable servants.”   

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