Homily for October 2

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

Audio for Homily
“How long, O Lord?” laments Habakkuk,
frustrated by the misery and suffering all around him
and he wants to know why God doesn’t do something about it.

Have you been there?  Have you felt that like that?  I have.
When you and I, or someone we love, are faced with
suffering, disappointment, illness, pain,
hurt that seems to have no end,
we often ask God,  
“Why me? Why my family? Why her?
Why him? Why them?  Why the innocent?
Just - why?”

These are ancient questions, ever more ancient than Habakkuk  -
they’ve been asked in every generation of humankind’s history.
And God’s response, when it comes,
- and sometimes we’re left wondering what God’s response is -
God’s response to our lament is the same as offered to Habakkuk:
 “Write down the vision lest you forget it.”
(Hold on to your hope - don’t let go of it - no matter what!)
“The vision still has its time, it presses on to fulfillment,
it will not disappoint.
(Things, especially the important things, take time
and sometimes they take lots of time,
and often more time than we want to give them.)
“And if it delays - wait for it! It will surely come. It will not be late.”
(That’s on God’s time, not our time.)

And if such a response disappoints or even angers us in our pain,
if God’s answer doesn’t satisfy,
then either God is weak -- or we don’t understand.
My educated guess is that the problem is ours and not God’s.

There are three misunderstandings about our relationship with God
that can often and easily shape our lives of faith -
and scriptures like today’s bring them to the surface.
Three misunderstandings:
1) We sometimes believe that God owes us something.
We begin to think that if we lead good lives
then certainly good health and good fortune should be ours.
In fact, God owes us nothing
- while we owe everything to God.

2) We sometimes think that since we know God doesn’t want suffering,
that if we do suffer,  it’s because either God is angry with us
for something we’ve done or failed to do,
or for some reason God has just stopped caring about us.
In fact, God does not visit suffering upon his people.
He always cares for us.
Suffering is part of the human experience.

3) We sometimes think that God’s vision of happiness for us
must surely match our own vision of happiness
because, after all, who would know better than we -
where and how we’ll be happy?
 In fact, our vision of happiness might be radically different
than what God sees for us, what God calls us to,
what God has in store for us.

Such misunderstandings slip into our spirituality
when we begin to mix up who’s who in our relationship with God.
That’s what Jesus is getting at in the gospel story,
reminding us that the servant who’s done a day’s work
shouldn’t expect his master to begin waiting on him.
Indeed, servants are expected to wait on the one they serve -
not the other way around.
And that’s precisely where things begin to get uncomfortable for us.
Most of us don’t feature ourselves as servants -
after all - aren’t we’re the “people of God!”
Yes, we are.  But here’s something else not all might misunderstand:
- the people of God ARE the servants of God, and of their neighbor.
That doesn’t mean we’re God’s slaves, but it does mean
that we’re meant to serve God faithfully and loyally
and to find our peace, our joy, our satisfaction in serving God,
especially in serving God in our neighbor.
In today’s readings from Habakkuk and from Luke,
the Hebrew and Greek words translated here as “faith”
would be better translated as “steadfast loyalty” --
that very brand of loyalty and love that stands firm
even in the face of suffering and pain,
in the face of dashed dreams and failed expectations.

God’s response to us is often not a solution, but rather a promise.
We not often given quickly the solution we seek,
but rather we receive a promise, the promise of God’s love
and of ultimate victory for those who trust him
- even while they suffer.
The good news is that Jesus, our Lord, our Master, offers us much more
than just the call to suffer while serving him.

- Jesus is the Master who knows every suffering his servants endure
because he has shared in that suffering already
through his passion and death on the Cross.

- Jesus is the Master who walks alongside the servants
living with us in the suffering each of us knows in our lives.
Whatever suffering you bring to church today,
Jesus is living that suffering with you
and walking that suffering with you, by your side
and he understands it because he has already suffered it.

- And Jesus is the Master whose vision of joy for his servants
is greater, wider and deeper and often very different
than any we might possibly dream.

- And Jesus is the Master who, every hour of every day and night,
helps us to seek, to work for, to find the joy he has for us
-- even now, in our suffering.
That’s another misunderstanding of ours.
We too often think that joy will only come after the suffering is over.
The joy of God can come in the midst of our suffering
if we invite it, ask for it, allow it, expect it and welcome it.
The promise of Jesus is to be with us in our suffering
and to abide with us and to be our peace while  we suffer.
Jesus is the Master who, at the end of the day,
does put that apron on, and waits on us, and call us to his table,
inviting us to share in the food and drink of the Eucharist,
inviting us to the meal that is his life and peace for us.

So, as St. Paul urged Timothy, he urges us,
 “Stir into flame the gift of faith that God has given you..."
Stir into flame what has brought you safe thus far
that  gift through which the Lord promises to bring you joy
 “for that vision still has its time; it presses on to fulfillment;
it will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it;
it will surely come.”

And you, because of your steadfast loyalty:  you shall live.


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