Homily for October 6

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Homily for the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

Even just a quick look at the daily news might prompt all of us
to pray in the words of Habakkuk in today’s first scripture.
“How long, O Lord?
So much violence: why don’t you intervene?
Why do you let me see so much ruin?
Why must I look at misery?
Why so much destruction and strife and  discord?”

And  many, even most of us might pray these words
just looking at our own family circumstances,
and those of our friends and neighbors.
“How long, O Lord?
Domestic violence.  Sickness.  Misery.  Pain.
Disappointment.  Strife.  Hurt.  Discord.  Division.”

How many of us have ever prayed;
“How long, O Lord?   Please, no more bad news, Lord.
My plate’s already too full. Why me, Lord?  Why my family?
It just doesn’t seem fair!  Did I do something to deserve this?
Are you listening to my prayers? Why don’t you answer me?
What do you want me to do?  How long, O Lord?” 

That kind of prayer is a particular kind of prayer;
it’s called a lament. 
Laments are good because they help us vent, from deep in our souls,
our troubles and our pain and our desire and need for healing.
Lamenting is meant to cleanse us and lead us to hope.
A lament gone awry leads us to anger and despair.

So I give voice this morning to our lamentation
not to make us feel worse, not to remind us of all our burdens,
but because lamenting brings us to that place in our hearts
where Jesus comes to meet us.

Perhaps it’s where the apostles found themselves
when they asked Jesus, “Increase our faith, Lord.”
Is that what we need?  More faith?  Maybe – or maybe not.

Jesus tells the apostles that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed
they could uproot a full-grown tree with it and plant it in the sea –
just by a word of faith!

I don’t know about you but I couldn’t weed a small garden
- let alone do any major landscaping – on the word of my faith.
And I like to believe that I have more faith
than that the size of a mustard seed...

My faith won’t move mountains or move trees.
Truth is: sometimes my faith doesn’t move me.
And perhaps that’s what Jesus is getting at here.

Sometimes I want, sometimes I pray,
that my faith in God will move my troubles out of the way,
heal my pain, solve my problems, weed them out of my life
and bury them in the sea.
But the Lord doesn’t promise solutions like these.

It’s always good to pray for God’s help in sorting out my troubles,
for God’s wisdom in figuring out my problems,
for God’s strength in my weakest hour,
for God’s healing of my pain and hurt,
for God’s peace when it seems all peace is gone…
And certainly there are times when God answers just those prayers.

But we also need to remember that Jesus
who speaks of uprooting mulberry trees
also told us that if we would follow him
we need to take up our cross and walk in his footsteps.
Or as St Paul said this morning,
“to bear our share of hardship for the gospel.”

Jesus, who had more faith in his Father than all of humankind,
Jesus, like us, also prayed to be delivered from his pain and suffering.
Even after taking up his Cross, he cried out from its arms:
“Father, why have you abandoned me?”
The lament of Jesus.

When we find ourselves praying,  “How long, O Lord?”
- no one understands our prayer better than Jesus.
And no one is closer to us in that place in our hearts where we ache,
that place from which our prayer rises – than Jesus.

What Jesus does promise is that faith,
even faith the size of a tiny mustard seed,
faith is enough to help us accept and live with and live through
the problems and the troubles that are ours,
confident that we never bear our cross, our suffering alone,
that he is always with us.

The Lord meets us where faith leads us.
The Lord doesn’t wait for us on the other side of our troubles,
the Lord meets us in our troubles.
It’s faith that brings us to the Lord,
it’s our faith that believes there is some One
greater than all our suffering
who desires our healing and our peace
just as much as we do.

Whether our faith moves mountains and trees - or not –
it is enough to move us to trust in God when all seems lost.
It was the lament Jesus prayed on the Cross
that led to his words of trust and hope:
“Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.”

Faith, even faith the size of a mustard seed
is great enough to move us from lament to hope.
Hope that enables us to pray the rest of what Habakkuk wrote, that:
the vision of faith “still has its time;”
that in faith we “press on to fulfillment that will not disappoint;”
that “if it delays, we wait for it – for it will surely come.”

It’s not by accident or coincidence but rather by design 
that we pray here in the shadow
of the outstretched arms of Jesus on the Cross.

Those arms reach out to the suffering in the hearts
of everyone here who prays and laments, “How long, O Lord?”
Those arms embrace and envelop the hearts
of all who struggle in faith to know and accept what’s theirs in life
– and with God’s help to find healing and peace.

At this table, the innocent One
who surrendered himself for us, the guilty,
feeds and nourishes and strengthens us
with the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation:
food for hungry hearts, lamenting, praying, yearning
and hoping for peace.

“How long, O Lord?  How long?”

“Increase our faith, Lord!"

That we might trust and rest in you
while we pray, while we wait, while we hope…


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