Twenty Seventh Sunday Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4, Timothy 1: 6-8, 13-14, Luke 17: 5-10 Saint John Baptist de la Salle October 2, 2022
Knowing that the tragedy was about to happen never stopped it from tearing at my heart. When I was still a child, “The Wizard of Oz" was shown on television for the first time. Actually, I was just 12 years old in 1956 when we gathered at my grandfather's house to watch on his large 12-inch screen television this marvelous movie. Every year thereafter, while awaiting her final triumph, I could travel afresh through all of Dorothy's tears and terrors. And every year my soul sank when her little dog Toto saw a cat and jumped out of the departing hot air balloon at the last moment. Dorothy followed her dog, and the Wizard of Oz, who had promised to take her back to Kansas, floated away, along with hope itself. More tears would follow. Of course, each year, Dorothy would learn that the power to return to her Kansas farm had always been with her. Real desire, and three taps of those ruby slippers, would take her home. Eventually I realized that the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion were themselves actually from Kansas. They were the people who worked on the farm, Hunk, Zeke, and Hickory. So, even though Dorothy had been in a world of terror and wonder, she had never really left the company of her companions. Intelligence, heart, and courage had walked with her all the way through Oz. The disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith. That seems to be as proper as prayer intentions come. We are always told to do the same, to ask Jesus to increase our faith. That's why the tone of impatience in Jesus' response is hard not to notice, even though we do not talk about it very much. Jesus says, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you. Jesus then adds that it is not a question of increasing our faith. It is rather an issue of action on our part. Are we ready to move forward, to act upon the faith we already have?
All of this seemed simple enough 2,000 years ago. Now, well, it just seems harder. For the first time in generations, at least here in our country, most of us do not believe that life is getting better. Indeed, global warming, hurricanes and forest fires, perfectly express the spirit of our age. The world itself has grown tired of our selfishness, and it has turned against us. We only hear these words from the Prophet Habakkuk once every three years, and always on the Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time. "For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint, if it delays, wait for it. it will surely come; it will not be late. The rash one has no integrity; but the just one, because of his faith will live. Think of some of the troubles that didn't exist the last time we heard this prophecy, in 2019. Covid, the war in Ukraine, inflation, energy shortages, increased racial hatred. Does the vision still have its time? Is it pressing on to fulfillment? Are we sure that it will not disappoint? Those are good questions. Do you have an answer, or should we just start praying for more faith? But you see, just like Dorothy the answer has always been with us. The way to believe in the vision, to ready ourselves for its completion, is to immerse ourselves in the life of Jesus, the mystery we call the Church. This is the very purpose and nature of the Church. The Church keeps this vision alive. Encounter the Church and you encounter the vision, you hear it proclaimed. One spouse says to another, "I told you that I loved you on the day we were married. Isn't that enough? Truth never comes to us once and for all.
Truth must always be restated, relearned, and reinforced. Our Church community is one of the ways that happens. Your imagination is much too tiny if the word Church summons up images of hierarchy. Bishops and priests have their God given role to play, but buy themselves, they are no more Church than the Wizard is the Land of Oz. No, the Church is this community of people who keep the vision. Our, we might say, the vision keeps us. The vision offers us life. "For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint." That's never been easy to believe, yet Jesus expects us to quit our grumbling and mumbling and to act in faith. Faith, the power to find our way home, has always been with us.