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Sunday, October 2, 2016

I Cry Out to You Lord. But You Do Not Answer. Why, Lord, why?

 Sermon by Fr. Joseph Mungai
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Oct. 2, 2016
St. John the Apostle Awasi Catholic Church, Kisumu Archdiocese, Kenya
In 600 BC, the Babylonians were the
Fr. Joe Mungai
dominant power in the Middle East with their capital very near modern day Bagdad. The prophet Habakkuk (Habakkuk 1:2-3;2:2-4) who speaks to us in today's first reading, lived during the difficult period that began with the Babylonian army's first assault against the Holy Land in 604 BC, its capture of Jerusalem and its enslavement and exportation of many people to Babylon in 597 BC and the eventual total destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple ten years after that. 

Habakkuk asks God for relief. God assures him it will come if the people just put their
trust in God. God even gave detailed instructions to the king through the prophet Jeremiah on how they could avoid disaster, but the king did just the opposite. As a consequence they suffered greatly under the Babylonians.

Don't despair seems to fit today's theme. You can certainly hear despair in today's first reading as Habakkuk prays:
"How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen!" He is having quite a struggle with God. He goes on for several more verses telling God about all the things that are happening to the Jewish people. Not only were the Babylonians defeating every nation from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea, but God's own people in Judea and Jerusalem had turned from their worship of God to idolatry, child sacrifice and disregard for the poor and disadvantaged. Habakkuk exclaims: "I cry out to you, Violence! But you do not intervene. "Why, Lord, why?"

God's answer always is "Trust, have faith, be patient." God's salvation will come when God thinks its the right time. God will not disappoint. Writing it down especially on tables of stone or clay, would symbolize permanence. Those struggling with faith need this reassurance for "The just one, because of his faith shall live." St Paul quotes this line twice in his letters and it applies to faith in Christ. (Rom 1:17 and Gal 3:11). Despair won't help anyone, only faith.

It took many years until
"in the fullness of time" (Gal 4:4), God Himself appeared as the savior not just for the Jewish people but for all people. He began his saving work when he came to live among us, but he has not finished. So we continue to need faith until God's kingdom of eternal peace has been fully established. The apostles did have a sense that what Jesus was asking of them would require a lot of faith. In today's gospel we hear them asking Jesus to increase their faith. (
Luke 17:5-10)

The little lesson at the end of the gospel where we are told to do what we are expected to do is a little lesson in humility. It is also a lesson in faith insofar as the only way we can increase our faith is to live it (taking time to pray, read Scripture and as we are doing now, coming to Mass).
If we do not live it, it will be like muscles we don't use and they will atrophy. I see it happen to people so many times. Another thing we can do is what we hear in today's second reading (2 Timothy 1:6-8.13-14): "Take as your practice the sound words that you heard from me."  

Words are so important, especially the things we tell ourselves. A whole area of counseling has developed around this idea of how what we tell ourselves affects our mood. It's called cognitive therapy. What we tell ourselves also affects our faith. If we always tell ourselves negative things such as "God doesn't hear my prayers; God isn't here when I come to Church," we are going to believe those things. 

We should tell ourselves what we hear from the Scriptures: "God does love me; Christ died for me; Christ hears me when I pray, even when he says 'no,' Christ truly comes to me in the Eucharist," etc. Telling ourselves those things, especially when we don't feel it, or when the devil whispers doubts in our ears, helps strengthen our faith. 

Jesus tells us with faith as small as a mustard seed we can do amazing things. Amen.

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