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Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

If only you had faith!

The Word This Week

Faithfulness, faith and trust. These most invisible and difficult things are what God asks of us – just as we, in our own way, ask them of those who love us. “Trust me”, we say, “all will be well.” And if someone does trust us, the reward is simply that trust was well-placed. We have done our duty. Sometimes when we talk about “faith” we put the emphasis on “believe and accept”. Today’s readings (especially the passage from Habakkuk) invite us to think in terms of “trust”. The request of the Apostles is interesting: “Increase our faith” could also mean “Make it easier for us,” or “Prove that you are who you say you are.” Jesus replies that he can’t do that – you can’t make someone trust you. It has to be a gift, freely given.

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4

This reading is clearly in two parts – Habakkuk’s complaint and God’s reply. What is very important about this reading is that the prophet’s question is one of the most common and contemporary questions people raise about the very existence of God: it could be paraphrased as “Lord, why do bad things happen in our world? And why don’t you do anything?” Look carefully at Habakkuk’s words, and see how he puts this question: make sure that the congregation can have a sense that such a relevant question is being asked. Make sure that there is a substantial pause after “…all is contention and discord flourishes” to let people know that Habakkuk is now waiting for a reply. The second part, God’s answer, is much harder: it is an answer that is not an answer. It could be paraphrased simply as “Be patient. Trust me.” This will be brought out most in the words “…if it comes slowly, wait, for come it will without fail.” There is also an important point in the last two lines, where the word “faithfulness” appears


Second Reading: 2 Timothy 1:6-8.13-14
We move on to Paul’s second letter to Timothy, the young man he ordained and set in charge of a church community. The advice he gives today fits well with the ideas in the other readings, since Paul is recommending faithfulness, patience and perseverance to the young bishop. He starts off by reminding Timothy of his ordination (“…when I laid my hands on you.”) and the gift that God gave him at that time. Remembering this, Timothy is to “bear the hardships…relying on the power of God.” Even for those not ordained, this is good advice. Make sure your congregation hear it. “Faith” comes in in the last paragraph. There is also a rather lovely image that is dropped in: “You have been trusted to look after something precious…” Think for a while about what this means for you and the congregation to whom you proclaim these words!


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