Faith is our response to God. It is our response to God’s invitation to us, to come and be fathered by Him. For He wants to have a relationship with us. So, He calls us to seek Him, to know Him and to love Him. Whenever we answer this call, faith comes alive. We live no longer for ourselves but for Him who has called us. Our whole life then depends on Him. We trust Him completely. And we let Him direct, order and govern our lives according to His Providence.
For Bishop Robert Barron, “Faith gives us the frame or the pattern that enables us to understand and interpret reality.” In other words, faith helps us to keep things in perspective, since we all have the tendency to either blow things out of proportion or to underestimate a situation. But with faith, we see things not only from our own point of view, but also in the light of God’s goodness and purpose. We come to appreciate things as they are and why they are as they are.
This is the power of faith. It summons us; calls us out of ourselves and leads us on a whole new journey. A journey in which we are not our own captains, but passengers who are receptive and responsive to the commands of God. It is a journey of wonder. A journey that awakens in us the desire to see more, to hear more so that we can trust totally. It is a journey that Corrie ten Boom describes as, “We are never afraid to trust our unknown future to the Known God”.
Something always happens when we choose to embark on this journey. At first, there is a cloud of uncertainty, call it darkness. We are not too sure of what is going on. We can sense something, but we cannot name it. This is the stage the prophet Habakkuk found himself in the first reading from Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4. The temptation at this stage is to step back, rely on oneself and then give up. But the prophet challenges us to rather seek God and bring our troubles to Him.
Again, this is the power of faith. It does not settle for any situation. It reaches out. It cries and it calls on God until He answers. For faith is never a one-off response to God. It is always a consistent seeking, trusting and dependent on God, “who orders and governs all things according to His plans and purposes even when the contrary is obvious” (Brad Gregory). This was the case with the people of Israel at the time of the prophet Habakkuk. God answered them.
But He did not answer them as they might have wanted. He did not dramatically take away the oppression, the injustice or the tyranny they were experiencing, rather He addressed them, and called on them to wait. “If it (justice) comes slowly”, He said, “wait, for come it will, without fail”. This takes us to the next stage of faith’s journey. A stage in which we have to listen and do what God asks of us. Again, it is a trying stage. Impatience creeps in and then we give up.
About this stage, Thomas A. Edison has this to say, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success, to their solution when they suddenly gave up”. And the first reading puts it this way, “See how he flags, he whose soul is not at rights.” The word “flags” here does not mean signal but give up. So, the text could be read as see how he gives up, he whose soul is not at rights, that is not in obedience to God’s commands to wait.
And we confirm the meaning of the text by considering the text that follows, “but the upright man will live by his faithfulness.” In other words, he will live by his obedience of faith. According to the Catechism no. 144, “To obey (from the Latin ob-audire, to “hear or listen to”) in faith is to submit freely to the word that has been heard, because its truth is guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself. Abraham is the model of such obedience offered us by Sacred Scripture.”
He (Abraham) obeyed God and he waited for many years before the promise God made him was fulfilled. One can only imagine the many thoughts that ran through his mind all those years. “No doubt, he might have felt God’s promise was too good to be true. There is no way I am going to have a child at my age. According to “science”, my wife cannot bear a child anymore.” Abraham could have probably settled for what the prevailing knowledge of the time.
But he chose to hear more, to listen to God and to wait on Him. Again, this is the power of faith. It not only trust in God’s goodness and providence, but it also hopes to receive the goodness it trusts. For God, the Good cannot give any other thing except that which is good. So, with faith we look forward; we listen, and we do what God asks of us because we trust Him. We are ready to be impacted by Him. We are willing to receive the new life that He offers us.
A new life that demands a mustard seed faith. The faith Jesus spoke about in the Gospel from Luke 17;5-10, “Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” In other words, if your faith is as small as saying, “God I trust you. I may not understand what you up to, but I will do what you have asked.” We will be surprised to see our mulberry tree, our situations losing their power over us and moving to sea.
St. Francis of Assisi puts it this way, “Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible and you find yourself doing the impossible.” A mother with a child suffering from epilepsy did just that. The mustard seed was to pray this prayer, “Lord, I do not understand why my son has this condition, but I know you are up to something and it is good. I will let you do your thing”. Her mulberry tree of anger was uprooted and planted in the sea. And she then loved her son.
Fr. Francis Afu