Father Donald Senior, CP

Oct. 6: 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The vision still has its time

Hab 1:2-3; 2:2-4; Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9; 2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14; Lk 17:5-10

Last fall when the clergy sex abuse issue roared back into the news with the release of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s scathing report, Catholic Theological Union held a “town hall” meeting with our students, staff and faculty. The idea was to offer people a chance to express thoughts and feelings about this terrible situation in our church — even more poignant at a school preparing future priests and lay ministers.

As people began to comment, there was the expected expressions of anger, shame and sadness. But a different voice was heard when one of our younger lay students spoke her mind. “While I am very sad about the sins of the church, I think of myself as a ‘first responder.’ If others are fleeing the burning building, I want to go in and put out the fire. I love my church and feel called to help heal it.”

I was deeply touched by her words. And several of our other students began to echo her sentiments. I thought of them again when I reflected on the readings for this Sunday. The first reading is from biblical prophet Habakkuk, who counsels Israel not to lose heart but to hold on to its vision of trust in God, even as the prophet laments, “Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and clamorous discord.” The Lord responds by telling the prophet to write down his vision on tablets so it can be clearly read and remembered. “For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint.”

What is the Christian vision of life?  What would each of us write on those tablets?  That, I think, is the key question prompted by the Scriptures for today as we wrestle with the failings of our church. Each of us might articulate that “vision” in a different way. But in some fashion, it would have to include the faith that our God is a God of infinite love and mercy. That the earth and our universe have been created by God out of love. That we, as humans, are made “in the image and likeness of God.” And even though we, as a human family, have abused our freedom and brought violence and death into the beauty of our world, God has not abandoned us. And as Christians we believe that Jesus is, as Pope Francis has reminded us, “the human face of the Father’s mercy.” The astounding belief that God so loved the world that he gave his only son for us. 

And our vision lifts up what it means to be authentically human, formed in the same beauty and graceful virtues revealed in the teaching and example of Jesus, the Word made flesh. Therefore, animated by love; caring for those most vulnerable; promoting justice and equity; taking responsibility for the beauty of our common home, the earth; rejecting violence and cynicism. And we even dare to believe, in the words of Habakkuk, that we, “because of [our] faith, shall live.” That is, no matter how mysterious and unimaginable it is for us, we believe that there is abundant life beyond death. And as Jesus prays on the eve of his own death: “so that they may all be one, as you Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us.”

In today’s Gospel reading, the apostles earnestly ask Jesus, “Increase our faith.”  An appropriate prayer for all of us today. Jesus responds with a paradoxical parable about the master of a household who expects his servant to prepare his evening meal, even after working all day. This is not a lesson about being considerate to your household staff but a stiff reminder about the awesome power and beauty of God. Even when we have done what we are supposed to do as human beings and followers of Jesus, we are still “unprofitable servants” in the face of God’s utter goodness and majesty. Yet, we know that this same God, the one revealed by Jesus, loves us unconditionally, even as we are frail and unsure.


  • scripture