Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, October 6, 2013 — God Shouts to Us in Our Pain and Suffering — Jesus teaches the apostles to look out for the little ones and those excluded or marginalized in society

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Art: An 18th century Russian icon of the prophet Habakkuk (Iconostasis of Transfiguration Church, Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia).
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Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 141
Reading 1 Hb 1:2-3; 2:2-4
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How long, O LORD? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and clamorous discord. Then the LORD answered me and said: Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily. 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, shall live.
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Responsorial Psalm Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

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R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD; let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation. Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us joyfully sing psalms to him. R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the LORD who made us. For he is our God, and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides. R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. Oh, that today you would hear his voice: “Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert, Where your fathers tempted me; they tested me though they had seen my works.” R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
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Reading 2 2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14

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Beloved: I remind you, to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.  For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.  So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.

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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.


Gospel Lk 17:5-10

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The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
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“Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'”
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Habakkuk lived while Israel was under the domination of the Babylonians. He constantly cries out to the Lord for relief.
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“How long, O LORD? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not intervene.”
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Habakkuk seems almost on the edge of insanity as he has lost his faith in God. What could be a greater anxiety?
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The cry of Habakkuk in Today’s first reading is very timely to what is going on in our nation today. Listen to what the ancient prophet says to us this Sunday:
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How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, “Violence!” But you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruins; why must I look at misery? Destruction and violence are before me: there is strife and clamorous discord.
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When we are near despair we might say: “Thank you, Habakkuk, for giving voice to our sentiments”.
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But, Why Did God Not Intervene?
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God does not intend evil or human suffering for His children. But neither will God take away the freedom of choice that he gave to us when he created us. From the moment when Adam and Eve chose their own desires over the way of God, the effects of original sin have echoed down the generations. Sin is real, and we are the ones who choose to do wrong, evil deeds. People who have gradually allowed their hearts to turn from love to hate are, unfortunately, capable of evil acts that bring about terrible destruction. We saw this during the Holocaust, during the Oklahoma City bombing and during the Attack on America on 9-11.

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Where is God in all this?

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Like Habakkuk, we too may wonder where is God in all this? Has He abandoned us? Has He forgotten about us?

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Some people may become very angry at God. Unfortunately, the Attack on America may push some fragile believers over the top and cause them to quit on God. Why believe in a God who could allow such horrible things to happen? One can readily understand such questioning. It is normal part of human nature and normal to people struggling to grow in faith.

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It should comfort us to know that 2,000 years ago another child of the light experienced horrific darkness. The forces of evil hung Him on a cross in an effort to destroy His spirit. In the midst of His darkness and His experience of evil Jesus sweated drops of blood and it seems that He thought for a moment that His good and loving Father had abandoned Him. He cried out in lamentation: “My God, My God why have you abandoned me?”

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It seems that it was somehow a part of God’s mysterious plan to allow Jesus to experience the depths and horrors of evil prior to His defeat of it which occurred in the resurrection.

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As followers of Jesus, we too must realize that we like Him will be attached by the powers of darkness. These powers will try to destroy our bodies, minds and spirits, our marriages and families our institutions and churches. The September 11th Attack on America was an attack on our way of life (all of which is not good and pure). It sought not only to hurt and kill us physically or economically, but it also sought to break our spirit.

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So where is God in all this? He is in our midst, busy helping us to unite, to come together, and assist our fellow  members of the family of God.

-to fight and bring to justice to people of violence.

-God is in our midst helping us heal the wounded and the traumatized.

-God is in our midst moving us to wake up and see what is really important.

God weeps at the destruction of human life, but immediately He gives us the strength to rise up from the rubble to put our lives back together again. The recovery and healing process may take years but if we work with God and with each other, we will end up stronger and better.

C.S. Lewis in his book “The Problem of Pain” writes: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pain.”

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Some say “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”

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Peace and Freedom: Adapted from Ascension Catholic Net.

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Read more:

http://www.ascensioncatholic.net/lectionary/C
ycleC/reflection/Ordinary27C.html

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Homily from the Abbot
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My sisters and brothers in Christ,

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The words of the Lord in the Gospel today put us on the alert:  we are here to serve God.  This is not something onerous because this is a God who always loves us.  On the other hand, He wants us to listen to Him and to understand His love and His way of living in this life.  So often we only want our way of living and then we try to justify it somehow in our relationship with God.

The first reading today, from the Prophet Habakkuk, reminds us also that this world belong to the Lord.  He will have His way.  This can sound scary and many of us have heard the words of the Lord used to scare us.  Yet ultimately, it is the Lord begging us to listen to Him so that we can know the way of peace and walk on the road of salvation.

The Second Letter to Timothy tells us that God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.  In our lives, sometimes we want only free to love and we want and a freedom so that all of our actions will be right without us having to work at them.  The author of this letter reminds us that we must bear our share of hardship for the gospel.  We who have come to know the Lord also know that His way of life for us is filled with joy–but requires power and love and self-control.

Unless we have a deep and personal relationship with Jesus Christ, probably not much in these readings will touch us.  Only if we have come to know the Lord and His love for us are we able to take up the strong task of living His words and walking in His path.  This is not because He wants us to suffer but because to live the divine life means that we must recognize in ourselves what is not divine and begin the work of allowing the Lord to transform us.  That is difficult work indeed!

Both the first reading and the gospel speak of the necessity of faith!  Habakkuk tells us that the just one will live by faith.  Surely this sounds so easy!  Once we set out on the path, however, we begin to realize how difficult it is to live by faith in every circumstance, seeking only what God wants, seeking only to walk in the way of the Lord.

Yet there is always cause for rejoicing because Jesus promises to be with us in every circumstance of our life.  Too often we forget to be still in His presence and ask His Spirit and to rejoice in His love.  All it takes is to be still in His presence.  We need do nothing more except be aware that there is a God and that He loves us.  He loves us in Jesus Christ!

Let us pray this Sunday with the apostles:  Lord, increase our faith!  Let us know Your love and we shall be saved!

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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The historical context of our text:The historical context of Luke’s Gospel always has two dimensions: the time of Jesus in the 30’s, when the things described in the text took place, and the time of the communities to whom Luke addresses his Gospel, more than 50 years after the events. When Luke reports the words and actions of Jesus, he is not only thinking of what happened in the 30’s, but rather of the life of the communities of the 80’s with all their problems and concerns, and he tries to offer them some light and possible solutions (Lk 1:1-4).A key to the reading: the literary context:The literary context (Lk 17:1-21) within which is our text (Lk 17:5-10) helps us better understand Jesus’ words. In this text Luke brings together the words Jesus used to teach how one should live in community. Firstly (Lk 17:1-2), Jesus draws the attention of the disciples to the little ones, that is those excluded from society.

The communities must hold these dear..Secondly (Lk 17:3-4), he draws attention to the weak members of the communities. In their regard, Jesus wants the disciples to feel responsible for them and to take an attitude of understanding and reconciliation towards them..Thirdly (Lk 17:5-6) (and here begins our text), Jesus speaks of faith in God that must be the driving force of the life of the communities..Fourthly (Lk 17:7-10), Jesus says that the disciples must serve others with the greatest degree of self-denial and selflessness, considering themselves to be useless servants..Fifthly (Lk 17:11-19), Jesus teaches them how to accept the service of others. They must show gratitude.

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Sixthly (Lk 17:20-21), Jesus teaches them to look at reality around them. He tells them not to run after the deceitful propaganda of those who teach that the Kingdom of God, when it comes, will be able to be seen by all. Jesus says the contrary. The coming of the Kingdom, unlike that of earthly rulers, will not be able to be seen. For Jesus, the Kingdom of God is already here! It is already in our midst, independently of our efforts and merits. It is pure grace! And only faith can perceive it.

A commentary on the text:

Luke 17:5: The apostles ask Jesus for an increase in faith The disciples are aware that it is not easy to possess the qualities that Jesus has just asked of them: care for the little ones (Lk 17:1-2) and reconciliation with the weakest of the brothers and sisters of the community (Lk 17:3-4). And with much faith! Not just faith in God, but also faith in the possibility of regaining the brother and sister. That is why they go to Jesus and ask him: “Increase our faith!”.

Luke 17:5-6: Living with faith the size of a mustard seed Jesus replies: “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”. This statement of Jesus raises two questions: (1) Is he insinuating that the apostles do not have faith the size of a mustard seed? The comparison used by Jesus is strong and insinuating. A grain of mustard seed is very small, as small as the smallness of the disciples. But with faith, they can become strong, stronger than the mountain or the sea! Were Jesus speaking today he might say: “Were your faith the size of an atom, you could blow up this mountain.” That is, in spite of the difficulty inherent, reconciliation among brothers and sisters is possible, since faith can make that which seems impossible come true. Without the central axle of faith, a broken relationship cannot be healed and the community desired by Jesus cannot be realised. Our faith must bring us to the point where we are able to move within ourselves the mountain of our preconceived ideas and throw it in the sea. (2) With this statement, was Jesus referring to faith in God or faith in the possibility of bringing back the weakest of the brothers and sisters? Most probably it refers to both. As the love of God is made concrete in the love of neighbour, so also faith in God must be made concrete in faith in the brothers and sisters, in reconciliation and in forgiving even up to seventy times seven! (Mt 18:22) Faith is the remote control of the power of God who acts and reveals himself in the renewed human relationship lived in community!

Luke 17:7-9: Jesus points out how we must fulfill our obligations towards the community  To teach that in the life of a community all must deny and be detached from their own selves, Jesus uses the example of the slave. In those days, a slave could not merit anything. The master, hard and demanding, wanted only their service. It was not usual to thank a slave. For God we are like a slave before his master.   It may seem strange that Jesus should use such a harsh example taken from an unjust social institution of his times, to describe our relationship with the community. He does this on another occasion when he compares the life of the Kingdom to that of a thief. What matters is the aim of the comparison: God comes like a thief, without any previous notice, when least we expect him; like a slave before his master so also we cannot and must not obtain merits before our brothers and sisters in the community.

Luke 17:10: Application of the comparison of the useless servant  Jesus applies this example to life in community: as a slave before his master, so also must our attitude be in community: we must not do things in order to merit support, approval, promotion or praise, but only to show that we belong to God! “So with you, when you have done all you have been told to do, say ‘We are merely servants; we have done no more than our duty’.“ Before God, we do not merit anything. Whatever we have received we have not merited. We live thanks to the gratuitous love of God.

A deepening on faith and service:

Faith in God is made concrete in bringing back brothers and sisters

First fact: During the Second World war in Germany, it happened that two Jews, Samuel and John were in a concentration camp. They were very badly treated and often tortured. John, the younger, was annoyed. He vented his anger by cursing and using bad language towards the German soldier who treated them badly and beat them. Samuel, the older one, kept calm. One day, in a distracted moment, John said to Samuel: “How can you keep calm when you are treated so brutally? Why is it that you have so much courage? You should react and show your opposition to this absurd regime!” Samuel replied: “It is more difficult to stay calm than to be courageous. I do not seek courage, because I am afraid that, due to my anger, he may switch off the last spark of humanity that lies hidden in this brutalised soldier”.

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Second fact: During the Roman occupation of Palestine, Jesus was condemned to death by the Sanhedrin. Because of his faith in God the Father, Jesus welcomes all as brothers and sisters, and in acting thus, he challenges radically the system, which in the name of God, keeps so many people marginalized. The sentence of the Sanhedrin is ratified by the Roman Empire and Jesus is lead to be tortured on Mount Calvary. The soldiers carry out the sentence. One of them pierces Jesus’ hands with nails. Jesus’ reaction is: “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do!” (Lk 23:34). Faith in God reveals itself in the pardon offered to those who are killing him.

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The service to be offered to the people of God and to humanity

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In Jesus’ time, there was a great variety of messianic expectations. According to the many interpretations of the prophecies, there were those who expected a Messiah King (Lk 15:9.32), a Holy Messiah or High Priest (Mk 1:24), a Warrior Messiah (Lk 23:5; Mk 15:6; 13:6-8), a Doctor Messiah (Jn 4:25; Mk 1:22.27), a Judge Messiah (Lk 3:5-9; Mk 1:8), a Prophet Messiah (Mk 6:4; 14:65).

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All, according to their own interests or social class, expected the Messiah according to their wishes and expectations. But it seems that no one, except the anawim, the poor of Yahweh, expected a ServantMessiah, proclaimed by the prophet Isaiah (Is 42:1; 49:3; 52:13). The poor often recalled the messianic promise considered as a service offered to humanity by the people of God. Mary, the poor of Yahweh, said to the angel: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord!” It was from her that Jesus learnt the way of service. “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve” (Mk 10:45).

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The figure of the Servant described in the four canticles of Isaiah (Is 42:1-9; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13 to 53:12), did not point to an isolated individual, but to the people of the captivity (Is 41:8-9; 42:18-20; 43:10; 44:1-2; 44:21; 45:4; 48:20; 54:17), described by Isaiah as a people “oppressed, disfigured, without the appearance of a person and without the least human condition, a people exploited, ill treated, reduced to silence, without grace or beauty, full of suffering, avoided by all like a leper, condemned like a criminal, without recourse or defence” (Cf. Is 53:2-8).

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This is a perfect image of one third of humanity today! This servant people “does not cry out, does not raise its voice, will not be heard in the streets, will not break the crushed reed” (Is 42:2). Persecuted but does not persecute; oppressed but will not oppress; trodden under foot but will not tread on others. This people will not enter into the abyss of violence of the empire that oppresses. This attitude of resistance of the Servant of Yahweh is the root of justice that God wishes to see planted in the whole world. That is why God asks the people to be his Servant with the mission of making such justice shine brightly throughout the world (Is 42:2.6; 49:6).

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Jesus knows these canticles and in fulfilling his mission he lets himself be guided by them.  At the time of his baptism in the Jordan, the Father entrusts him with the mission of Servant (Mk 1:11). When, in the synagogue of Nazareth, he explains his programme to his own people, Jesus publicly assumes this mission (Lk 4:16-21). It is in this attitude of service that Jesus reveals the face of God that attracts us and shows us the way back to God.

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http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-27th-sunday-ordinary-time-c

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