(27th Ordinary Sunday: Habakkuk 1:2-3 & 2:2-4; 2 Tim. 1:6-14; Luke 17:5-10)
The book of Habakkuk has only three chapters. The first begins with a complaint: “How long, O LORD? I cry for help but you do not listen!” The last ends with an expression of unshakable faith. In the face of every conceivable disaster the prophet exclaims, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, and exult in my saving God. God, my Lord, is my strength.”
When the Apostles said to Jesus, “Increase our faith,” he assured them that faith the size of a mustard seed could work wonders. But the faith of the Christians Mary was addressing at La Salette was not only small; it lacked viability as well. It was unable to germinate, incapable of producing fruit.
St. Paul uses a different symbol in his letter to Timothy. “Stir into flame the gift of God.” In other words, don’t let it die out. He goes on: “Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.”
Faith is indeed a rich trust, a great gift, but it needs to be nourished and renewed regularly, through prayer and the sacraments. First, however, it must be accepted.
There is a saying, “Reject the gift, reject the giver.” The message of La Salette makes the same point. Abuse of the Lord’s name, making a mockery of religion, etc.—these are a form of rejection.
The second part of today’s Gospel seems to have no connection with the conversation about faith. There is, however, a certain logic. Simply put, if faith is a gift, we cannot take credit for it.
It is only by God’s grace at work in our lives that, as believers, we can do good or endure evil. Never can we stand before God and say, “Look what I did for you!” In that sense we are unprofitable servants, even despite our best efforts. Many saints have considered themselves among the worst of sinners, and marveled at the mercy God showed them, often including the gift of tears.
We have received the gift of another’s tears, those of our Mother, moistening the seed of her people’s faith, that it may be increased.