Image: Mary, the model of patient faith.
Habakkuk 1.2-2.4 | Psalm 9 | Matthew 17.14-20
My reflection is a bit late this morning but, as they say, good things come to those who wait. At least that is the theme found in our first reading this morning.
The prophet Habakkuk speaks in response to those who cry out for justice and he offers to them that, despite what it might look like, the Lord is prepared to bring justice to the world: to lift up the downtrodden, to see that perpetrators get what is coming to them and to put the devil in his place, but it may be something for which we will have to be patient. Habakkuk says, “If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.”
We are not good at waiting; we live in a society that does not really know how to wait. For me waiting is the hardest thing to do. And yet waiting is the most natural condition. We think of an expectant mother who must wait and let the life of her unborn baby develop within her. We think of the farmer who plants the seed of his crop in the springtime and then must wait until the harvest in the fall to reap the rewards of his labor. Waiting does not mean that we sit and do nothing. There is lots of work in the meantime, making preparations, but the essence of the task is the faith that the work will not be in vain and that the Lord will come and fulfill the promise He has made.
In the gospel today Jesus speaks about faith and, ironically, he does so with great impatience. The disciples question why they were ineffective in healing a boy with epilepsy and Jesus chastises them for not having enough faith to do what he had commissioned them to do. Faith the sized of mustard seed, an exceedingly small seed, is all that it takes to move a mountain, Jesus says. It is true, sometimes the problems that the world faces seem to be mountain sized and are quite overwhelming. The invitation is to have faith, be patient, and keep working toward the goal and sure enough we will arrive there with God’s help. “Nothing will be impossible for you”
Part of waiting in faith is knowing that we are not the first to do so.
Our tradition is rich in the stories of those who have gone before us. The problem is that sometimes for us they are just stories, we are unable to connect with the fact that these were real people with real lives and real desires just like our own. Think of Mary, the mother of Jesus, whose life was interrupted by God’s plan for humanity. Mary waited nine months to bear the Son of God, but that was just the beginning. She watched and waited as Jesus grew to see if the potential that had been promised in him would come to be. Then she waited mourning and weeping at the foot of the cross of her Son wondering if all that potential had been taken away. She waited in the upper room while Jesus slept in the tomb until at last, she came to see her son again and know that God’s promise was for real.
Theologian Paul Tillich writes,
“Although waiting is not having, it is also having. The fact that we wait for something shows that in some way we already possess it. Waiting anticipates that which is not yet real. If we wait in hope and patience, the power of that for which we wait is already effective within us. Those who wait in absolute seriousness are already grasped by that for which they wait. Those who wait in patience have already the power of that for which they wait.”