Sunday of 27th Sunday of OT Cycle C

Faith of a Mustard Seed

Joke: A climber fell off a cliff. As he tumbled down into a deep gorge he grabbed hold of a branch of a small tree. “Help,” he shouted. “Is there anyone up there?” A deep majestic voice from the sky echoed through the gorge. “I will help you, my son. But first, you must have faith in me.” “All right, I trust you,” answered the man. The voice replied, “Let go of the branch.” There was a long pause & the man shouted again, “Is there anyone else up there?”

In all of today’s readings, the goal of the Church is to help us understand two realities: Faith and Duty. What is faith? What is duty? To answer these two questions, Saint Luke reports the teaching of the Lord Jesus to his disciples, reported in today’s Gospel, saying, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted & planted in the sea,’ & it would obey you.” Someone said that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can enter the kingdom of heaven; but if you have a great faith, you would bring the kingdom of heaven into your soul. According to the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), faith is necessary for the salvation that Saint Mark reported in his writing of the teaching of the Lord Jesus saying, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:16). Faith is necessary for salvation, but does faith alone save us? Apparently, it is not so that Saint Matthew reported the teaching of the Lord Jesus saying, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Mt 7:21). Faith is necessary for salvation, but it is also required to do the will of the heavenly Father. Faith is both a gift of God and a humanly act in response to God, where the Catechism of Catholic Church teaches, “In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace: “Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace”” (CCC 155). So, faith is not only a matter of believing, but it is also a matter of our intellect commanding our body to go into action with God’s grace. Just as Saint James reminds us in his writing about faith and work saying, “Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead”, how would we say that we have faith without work?

Faith without work might be demonstrated through the cry of the prophet Habakkuk reported in today’s first reading saying, “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?” To this cry out, the Lord said, “The rash man has no integrity; but the just man, because of his faith, shall live.” What does it mean “the rash man has no integrity?” Father Stephen Hellman once said that rashness consists in allowing ourselves to be pushed and prodded by forces outside of ourselves, by allowing our emotions, our impulses-sometimes the people around us-to drive us to do things that in our heart if we really think about it, when we calmly consider it, just aren’t right. This is exactly why some people said on their lips to have faith in the Lord Jesus but doubt his presence when they are in the midst of suffering and experiencing difficulty. This is exactly why some people said on their lips to have faith in the Lord Jesus but don’t want to come to Church to thank the Lord for the gift of life and to thank him for all the blessings that they received. And this is exactly why some people said on their lips to have faith in the Lord Jesus, we don’t have to go to Church since Jesus already died once for our salvation. Wrong! Our faith in the Lord Jesus is just like we believe in the vending machine that it will give us some snacks or drink. But in order for it to give us some snacks or drink, we have to deposit some money in it. We cannot just stare at it nor believe in it without deposit money to it and expect it to give us any snack or drink. Faith in the Lord Jesus also requires us to deposit some acts of living out his Father’s will in order to earn that salvation that Jesus once died for us.

Verse 4 was taken off in today’s first reading which said, “This is why the law is numb and justice never comes, for the wicked surround the just; this is why justice comes forth perverted.”

The law is numb because the Lord has been silent, the Law, whether in the form of the scroll found in the Temple in the time of Josiah (2 Kgs 22) or in the form of divine instruction given by priests and prophets, has proved ineffective and so appeared to be cold, unreceptive, and powerless. For the Law to be credible, the Lord must see to it that the wicked are punished and the just rewarded. How would we kept the laws of the Lord? How good would it be if we were to just study and understand, but not carry anything into action?

What does our duty consist of if it does not involve our talent, good health, families, living conditions and everything else? Many people believe that all of those qualities and duties are solely due to the fact that we worked towards them. And while it may be true that our efforts did play a large role, we cannot forget that God’s grace is continuously pouring down upon us. God continues to keep us in existence by providing the air that we breathe in to this day. In today’s Gospel, Jesus taught his apostles saying, “Who among you would say to your servant, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’? 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.’” These sayings of Jesus remind his disciples and perhaps to each and every one of us that Christian disciples can make no claim on God’s graciousness; in fulfilling the exacting demands of discipleship, we are only doing our duty.

What is faith, or rather, true faith? How would we know that we have true faith? Is true faith what we understand and believe, profess and preach, or is it how we live our Christian life? Jesus said in today’s Gospel, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted & planted in the sea,’ & it would obey you.” Was he being literal when he said this? Or was he merely speaking jokingly? Why is it our duty if it’s not to teach us to humble ourselves? How many Bible verses are there about the humility of Jesus? It is 33 verses symbolized by his 33 years on earth. Each year is a year of humbling himself to accept his humanity to the point of death, death on the cross for the sake of our salvation. If it’s his duty to die for the sake of our salvation, we don’t have to do anything to earn our salvation. However, it because of his ultimate love for us that he died for the sake of our salvation, how should we live our lives to return to his ultimate love? As he died for the sake of our salvation, what would we do to response to that sacrificial love is our duty? The decision is yours.

 

Weekend Homilies 2019

Homilies by Fr. Joseph Nguyen


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