Hb 1:2-3; 2:2-4; 2Tim 1:6-8, 13-14; Lk 17:5-10
“The rash one has no integrity; but the just one, because of his faith, will live.”
The prophet Habakkuk is desperate because he is surrounded by many evils which he calls “violence.” There are two interrelated senses of that word as used by this prophet in Judah.
There is violence against others. The rights and dignities of the poor and underprivileged are being denied. The wicked and greedy leaders oppress and despoil the poor.
There is also violence against God’s laws. There is widespread rebellion against God and His laws. The people are so blinded by sin that they even begin to imitate their pagan neighbors’ practice of offering and sacrificing their children to Moloch. There are also false prophets who lied to the people, telling them that their sins would not have negative consequences because they are God’s chosen people.
Habakkuk complained that God is not responding to his prayers to intervene and stop all this violence, “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? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife and clamorous discord.” Why is God not intervening in this crisis? Why is He permitting so much evil and injustice among His own people?
God gives him a two-fold reply.
Firstly, God assures him that He will surely act and fulfill His promises of saving His people in His own time, “Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint.” God will surely fulfill His saving plan, even in the face of the most atrocious evils and injustice.
Secondly, Habakkuk must cultivate a matured faith in and through this time of crisis. He cannot let his pride overcome him and kill his faith. He must have a faith that is steadfast and dynamic, “The rash one has no integrity; but the just one, because of his faith, will live.”
Why does God permit times of violence and invite us to cultivate a living and dynamic faith in such moments? This is so because it is our faith in Him, evident in our actions and not our achievements, that pleases God the most, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6). St. Peter also attests that the trials of life are meant to purify and bring out the best of our faith, “You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials; but this is so that your faith, which is more precious than the splendor of fire-tried gold, may by its genuineness lead to praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ appears” (1Pet 1:6-7). Whatever we do and endure out of our faith in Him is pleasing to Him, even if it does not yield favorable results.
St. Timothy was facing serious and widespread apostasy in the Christian community. These apostates were doing violence to God’s words by “teaching different doctrines,” and ignoring “the divine training that is in faith.” St. Paul writes to Timothy to remind him that is it not enough for him to be ordained or to receive gifts but that he must also mature in the grace of his ordination in the face of this struggle, “Stir into flame the gift of God that you received through the imposition of my hands.”
Timothy must not compromise in his witness to Jesus, “So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord nor of me a prisoner for His sake.” His faith in the Gospel must also be matured enough to endure the hardship that comes with believing and proclaiming the Gospel, “Bear your share of the hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” He must conform himself to the truth of the faith and defend it relentlessly against those who would corrupt it, “Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are living in very violent times, as Habakkuk correctly labeled it. Imagine the deadly violence against the most innocent unborn in the womb and its widespread acceptance and tolerance. Christians are persecuted. Think of the way that the poor and uneducated are abused and exploited. Reflect on the growing sex trafficking of women and children. Even seminarians are sexually abused in their seminary formation for holy priesthood!
Think also of the many acts of violence against God’s laws, even from within the Church. In a spurious appeal to a “Synodal” Church, the Flemish bishops, in open defiance of Vatican pronouncements, recently published a rite for the blessing of “same-sex” unions. They pretend that rejecting God’s laws and commandments will somehow help them to journey with those who have embraced a homosexual lifestyle. In their warped sense of inclusivity, they have excluded the laws of God that alone frees, heals, and unites us. They are among the many false and wicked shepherds who boldly tell us that our obstinate sinful choices are now perfectly compatible with an infinitely holy and just God. Sadly, there is no clear and collective rebuke and correction of such evil teaching from the Church’s hierarchy.
In the face of so much violence against others and God’s laws, consciences are wounded, become doubtful, or erroneous. The faithful are scandalized. It is so easy for many to abandon their faith and become atheists or agnostics. Conversions to the faith dwindle because the Church has lost the immutable connection between repentance from sin and authentic Christian faith as Jesus taught when He said, “Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:15).
Let us remind ourselves that God will surely intervene in this life or in the next in the face of violence against others and His laws. Justice will be done and His saving plans will surely prevail for those who never lose their faith in Him. Our role is to mature in our faith and allow Him to act in us and through us.
When the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith, they did so probably because they felt inadequate in the face of the high moral standard that Jesus set for them regarding scandal in sinful times, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to him by whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.”(Lk 17:1-2) In a time of prevalent sin, Jesus was warning them not to do violence to others or to His words by their scandalous words and actions.
Jesus replied to their request by asking them to actually mature in their faith. We too can mature in our faith by praying for an increase in faith in all our circumstances, “Increase our faith.” Instead of blindly following our feelings and passions, we must speak and act in faith in the face of all our struggles, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea.” Our faith is alive and life-giving when it is grounded on the truth of God’s words alone and not public opinions, “Faith comes from hearing and what is heard is the word of God” (Rom 10:17). Our faith matures as we selflessly serve God and others in faith without seeking results or rewards, “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”
Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist, the mystery of faith, to strengthen and deepen our baptismal faith in these violent times. His greatest desire is to dwell in our hearts through this faith, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph 3:17).
As we encounter Him in every Eucharist, let us hear Him repeat His question to us: “When the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (Lk 18:8) He is not asking if He will find a world without violence or a world where we are successful and achieve all the things that we aspire to.
He just wants to find a mature and enduring faith in our hearts when He returns in glory. Why? Because this faith is what pleases Him above all things.
Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!