Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
The first reading for this weekend comes from the Book of Habakkuk. Little is known about this prophet. It is known that the author was regarded as a prophet.
Scholars believe that this book was written between 626 BC and 612 BC when reigning supreme, but feared by the Jews, were neighboring pagan powers.
Habakkuk was composed after God’s people already had suffered great problems from being oppressed. The book reflects this fear and the reality prompting the fear.
This weekend’s reading well conveys the sense of how strong the anguish was, and even despondency of the people, as they looked at what had been, what was, and at what might lie ahead.
Answering these cries of desperation and intense anxiety, God, speaking through the prophet, reassures the people, telling them that relief and security will come. They will not perish. God is their savior.
For its second reading this weekend, the Church gives us a passage from the Second Epistle to Timothy. This epistle in a sense is from a new generation of Christians, the first generation being composed of the Apostles and their converts. Few of Timothy’s contemporaries were original disciples of Jesus.
Timothy certainly was in touch with Paul. Indeed, Paul converted Timothy, and Paul mentored Timothy, but Timothy was not from the circle of followers that literally walked with the Lord along the roads and byways of Galilee and along the streets of Capernaum and Jerusalem.
The term, “imposition of hands,” refers to one of the most ancient of the Christian liturgical gestures, namely the actual laying of hands upon the heads of candidates for Church leadership. Apostolic hands were laid on the head of Timothy, and Timothy became a bishop. Still today, this gesture is essential, required, and absolutely a part of ceremonies in which bishops, priests, and deacons are ordained.
The epistle urged Timothy to be strong and never to relent in preaching the Gospel. Proclaiming Christ through word and deed was Timothy’s vocation, the responsibility conferred upon him when hands were laid on him ordaining him a bishop.
St. Luke’s Gospel provides the last reading. Some trees, such as the sycamore, have deep and extended root systems. Uprooting them from the soil is not easy, if even possible. Mustard seeds are very small. Consider how much larger other seeds would have been, pits of fruit, and so on.
The culture at the time of Jesus regarded the tasks undertaken by a servant, or a slave, not as voluntary for the person performing the task. Rather, the task was a duty and an obligation. Also, slaves, or servants, were never invited to dine with a master. Dining together represented equality and the relationship of peers.
The message here is not that slaves or servants are inferior. The lesson here is that we all are God’s servants. He is supreme. We are not. Serving God is not our option. It is our duty. Slavery is history in our country, but we cannot allow our modern concepts of “achievement” or even “position” to color our perception of this reading.
The second and third readings confront us with a reality we perhaps forget. Serving God by obeying God’s law is not open to our choice to conform or not. In fact, we have no choice.
God, the Creator, is our master. We are subjects. Habakkuk called for acknowledgement of God. St. Paul urged Timothy to be true in his calling. The servants in the Gospel had to serve.
We must satisfy our own obligations, not because of subjugation, but reality. No human is almighty. None is all-knowing. We need God.
The wonderful consolation is that, in this fact, God’s love protects, strengthens, and guides us, unfailingly, always.
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