Keeping the fire of faith burning

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week XXVII-C, 06 October 2019

Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4 ><)))*> 2 Timothy 1:6-8 ><)))*> Luke 17:5-10

This “screen grab” is the accompanying photo to a post of a very good friend expressing his doubts and frustrations about his efforts in deepening the faith of their students at Dr. Yanga’s Colleges in Bocaue, Bulacan.

Oh, yes! That is one of the most innovative schools in the country you must have heard winning top honors for the country in almost every international robotics competition these past ten years or more.

And the very good news is how its president, Sir Michael Yanga, credits all the fruits and successes of their school to their strong emphasis on faith and values formation of students and faculty despite their being non-sectarian. Every year they celebrate a “God-centered Week” while every Monday, Sir Michael holds deepening sessions of the gospel with their students. Below is his post that struck me so much after he felt low last week when God uplifted his spirit with that photo he received.

Of course, I “loved” the post and commented, “this is God writing on your student’s palm, Mike, using you as his pen and ink.”

The following Thursday, I used his post for my homily and blog.

And I am using it again today because it is more than a homily but a gospel– a “good news” so good that must be shared with everyone especially those feeling weak and tired, even doubtful in their faith in Jesus Christ like the Twelve.

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

Luke 15:5-6
Photo of a flower of the mustard plant in Israel during our 2017 pilgrimage.

After narrating the parable of the rich man and Lazarus last Sunday, Jesus continues teaching his apostles about the demands of discipleship, foremost of which is the need for a firm faith at the start of St. Luke’s 17th chapter.

In four verses, the Lord warned the Twelve of the many temptations to sin they would face as they followed him. Without mincing any words, Jesus harshly told them how it would be better for any one of them to be tied with a millstone around his neck and be thrown into the sea than to cause others to sin. He also admonished them to rebuke those who sin but asked them to be forgiving to those who repent even if they repeatedly commit sin.

This is the context of our gospel today which is also directed to us that surely like the apostles, we would would have reacted to Jesus with the same request, “increase our faith, Lord” for it is so difficult to be good with all the tensions and complexities of life these days. We might even complain to him like the Prophet Habakkuk in the first reading in exasperation with all the evils going on as we strive to remain firm in our faith in God!

How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and clamorous discord.

Habakkuk 1:2-3

God never takes it as sin on our part when we complain to him like Habakkuk or when we ask him why bad things happen to us despite our efforts to faithfully follow his commandments. God knows very well and understands our cries within as prayers and expressions of our deep faith in him!

Sometimes, God allows us to hit rock bottom to make us stronger in our faith so we would love him more and trust him more. See how when we are so down and feeling weak when God would suddenly come to our rescue at the “nick of time”, sending us someone or something to remind us of his presence and fidelity like the Facebook post my friend received to assure him his talks are bearing fruit, that in fact, he likes them very much!

This is the reason why in explaining his teaching about the powers of faith, Jesus narrated this parable about “unprofitable servants”. In some older translations, the word used was “useless” that sounds so harsh and insulting. But, when seen with the eyes of faith, it is something so beautiful because our faithfulness as servants of God is a grace in itself he gives us so that we can do everything for him!

Whenever we are able to continue with our mission against all odds, with much difficulties even with pains, it is pure grace from God as our hearts are purified and made clean that enable us to see him in love as we reflected last Sunday in the attitude of Lazarus. And whenever there is grace and gift from God, there is always joy like the servants who have done what they are obliged to do.

“Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat…’? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’ ”

Luke 17:7-8, 9-10

Desolation is always a prelude to consolation.

Photo by Chester Ocampo, ICS Chapel, 2015.

Whenever we cry to God with our doubts and complaints at how things are going as we fulfill our mission to him, we actually express our faith and love in him. Rejoice because that is all due to him who is within us, reassuring us of his reliability and help in everything. Let us heed St. Paul’s call through Timothy to “stir into flame the gift of God” we have within us (2 Tim. 1:6) through prayers and constant struggle with our faith.

When things get difficult for us, when trials threaten to overwhelm us, look into Christ crucified who cried to the Father with “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Mt.26:47) before he died. Jesus was there first to suffer and die for us before our sufferings came. May we have that faith in him to rise to new life again. Amen.

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