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We believe; help our unbelief

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland


Oct. 6, 2013
Twenty-Seventh Sunday
in Ordinary Time
Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4 2
Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14
Luke 17:5-10

Today’s Gospel tells us what we know—whatever we do to respond to the Lord, it is only what we should do. There is nothing in our power that will equal what God has done for us. Despite the fact that no master would invite his servant to the table, Jesus does that for us at each Eucharist. What God does for us through his Son is beyond measure and beyond recompense. No wonder, then, that the apostles would pray for more faith. The prayer of the apostles, “Increase our faith,” came right after Jesus warned the disciples against causing another to sin and then challenging them to offer unconditional forgiveness to those who offended them. Now they are being told that all that God gives them is not something they can earn.

This is a lesson Habakkuk, the Apostles and Timothy had to learn. Like them, we pray to the Lord when we need something. For the most part, we know exactly the response we want and when we want it. We forget that God’s plans for us are part of a larger plan. We need to have faith.

One of the signs of our lack of trust in God is seen in the way we pray. Almost everyone has bargained with God at some time in his or her life. I tried it when my dad was ill and did it again when mom was dying even though I knew better by that time. Those to whom Jesus was speaking in today’s Gospel were very like us. Jesus spoke to them about the kind of relationship with God that is based on an “I’ll-do-this-if-you-do-that” type of attitude. To make the point, Jesus told about the relationship between the slave and his master. Because God is the creator and we are his creatures, we are not entitled to any reward for our service.

Today’s readings point to the significant relationship between service and faith. In faith, service is absorbed into love. The First Reading tells us that faith brings life with integrity and St. Paul reminds Timothy that service to God is possible because of faith. Were the gift of faith a gift of servitude and bondage, we would always know what we should do. Instead, our freedom demands that we continually choose. Choices require courage, power, and self-control and—above all else — love.

The Eucharist is a testimony to the pledge made by the Christian community to love and to serve. It is a witness to the world and a sign of what we share. Today, we gather—not as servants—but as friends.
We join one another in proclaiming our willingness to enter into a relationship that is more demanding than servitude, more personal than slavery, more viable than any love has ever been.





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