OCTOBER 3, 2004, 27th SUNDAY, HOMILY- Hb 1:2,3; 2:3,4; 2 Tim 1:6-8, 13-14; Luke 17:5-10
THE SPIRIT OF GOD HAS GIVEN US NO COWARDLY SPIRIT, BUT ONE THAT MAKES US STRONG, LOVING AND WISE. If St. Paul wrote these words to Timothy it was because he well understood that those who believe in the Lord Jesus profit from the encouragement that only another believer can supply. Faith in the Risen Lord Jesus joins us to God himself and so is a source of life. In making this point as he wrote to the Romans, St. Paul cites the passage from the prophet Habacuc that we heard in the first reading today. “The just man, because of his faith, shall live.” The life that faith opens up to us is the full and true life for it is a participation in the life of the living God, through the gift of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul reminds his disciple here that this Spirit is given us as a source of strength, of love and of wisdom.
The kind of faith that the prophet and the apostle have in mind is more than intellectual assent to some truth or system of truths. Rather, it is the sort of faith that is so radical that it governs the whole of our life and gives it meaning. “Faith alone can guarantee the blessings we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen”, as the Epistle to the Hebrews (11: 1) puts the case. This living faith opens up within our spirit a manner of seeing and thinking that makes of our time in this world a period of training for the world to come. Faith is a door that opens out into the sphere of eternity where God is all in all.
Today’s liturgy invites us to consider our own faith, that is to say, the beliefs we actually live by so that what we hold as true actually guides our choices, influences our plans and decisions and embodies our aspirations. Whether we advert to the fact or not in all our doings and decisions we act under the influence of the beliefs actively coloring our way of being in the world. The beliefs that we hold effectively give flavor to our desires, color to our perceptions and set the horizon within which we envisage the goals we set for ourselves, What we believe to be the purpose of life and the task assigned us by our existence in this changing world exerts a strong, often subtle influence on the friends we choose and the interests we cultivate. In a word, the faith that we take into our heart determines in large measure who we are and what we become. Clearly then the prophet’s words are both a promise and a warning intended to stir us up to put our faith in the God whose life and love is eternal.
We humans at times of trial can find it taxes us heavily to believe in what is unseen. The experience of living in a situation where the people we associate with and the whole environment function as if there is no other reality save what lies near at hand puts the faith of a believer under stress. Timothy, whom Paul urges to stir up the Holy Spirit given to strengthen him for his mission, lived in a world that was largely pagan. Paul knew by experience what obstacles the young preacher was to encounter in his service of the Gospel. With this in mind he reminds his disciple of the fact that in faith in the risen Lord he has access to the strength and light and love that the Spirit of God supplies to those who believe.
Faith in the Risen Lord Jesus unites us among our selves and with all whose hope is in the Lord. But when we live in the midst of unbelief that same faith can cause us to feel isolated from the people and happenings that surround us day by day. Paul had learned through the isolation that he had encountered and he realized that Timothy, inexperienced as he was and living in a largely unfriendly society, needed the encouragement that only a brother who truly believes could provide. This strengthening in faith is one of the most significant forms that our fraternal charity assumes. May we ourselves, being fortified by the confidence imparted by this reminder that THE SPIRIT GOD HAS GIVEN US IS NO COWARDLY SPIRIT, BUT ONE THAT MAKES US STRONG, LOVING AND WISE. And may the grace of this Eucharist enable us so to stir up our faith that we for our part by strive day by day to live our faith that God in his merciful love has given us the gift of this same Spirit that he might share his life of glory with each of us. This is what we are made for, as our faith tells us; God himself is our hope. May he always be our strength as we strive to be worthy of his love.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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