In the three year cycle of Sunday readings, today is the only time we hear from the prophet Habakkuk. One of the “minor prophets,” he lived 700 years before Christ during a time of political and religious chaos for Judah, when the Chaldeans were in control which led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile. The time was horrific and so we hear his lament, his complaint, to the Lord: “How long O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen. I cry out violence. You do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin? Why must I look at misery? There is strife and clamorous discord.” Has our prayer ever sounded this way? I think we all have our own “Habakkuk Moments” when we lament that God does not listen to our prayers or intervene in our lives.
It is not surprising then, that in the Gospel we also hear the plea of the apostles: “Increase our faith.” This is the plea of those who witnessed Our Lord’s great miracles—the dead raised to life, sight restored to the blind, hearing granted to the deaf! This is the plea of those who lived by the Lord’s side every day! We desire to know the “why” of events. We like to see the evidence. But this is not faith. Faith is based not on cold, clinical evidence, but on the simple, humble assurance that God is a Father who will never mislead us.
Cardinal Basil Hume wrote: “When we think deeply about the things of God, we come to a level beyond which the human mind cannot go. There comes a point where faith has to carry us. Because I do not see God with my eyes, because I do not see him present in the Blessed Sacrament, because I did not see him rise from the dead, because I cannot touch God with my hands, nor speak to him as did the apostles, I hesitate. I doubt.” Very often, people say that they find it difficult to believe. What they are really saying is that they find it hard to understand. Belief is one thing. Understanding is another.”
For instance, one genuflects before the tabernacle not because I have come to understand or have “figured out” the mystery of transubstantiation, but because I believe what Jesus said about the Eucharist.
Can we explain what we believe as Catholics, the articles of faith found in the Nicene Creed? How do we explain the Trinity, how God created the world, the Incarnation? Do we fully understand the Resurrection, the Ascension, or what we shall experience in the life to come? We don’t understand fully, but we say, “Credo,” “I believe” because God is faithful or as said in the Act of Faith, “He can neither deceive nor be deceived.”
In our “Habakkuk moments,” when like the Apostles, we plead, “Increase our faith,” we must step back and trust. This means, having a lively and literal sense of God’s reality, of his power, and his benevolence. We are truly disciples when this takes root in us, especially when difficult times come along. Today, let us pray for this grace, to know that we are in God’s hands and that he never abandons or deceives us!
St. Ignatius of Loyola expressed this so well when he prayed:
O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of your presence, your love, and your strength. Help us to have perfect trust in your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten us or worry us, for, living close to you, we shall see your hand, your purpose, your will through all things. Amen.