Published as a column in the Holy Sepulcher Bulletin for October 6, 2013
Often during Sunday homilies priests and deacons do not cover the Old Testament readings in any detail, if at all, because the gospel is the most important reading and so it gets most, if not all, of the attention. So I thought I would devote some time in the bulletin this week with an Old Testament reading that I believe speaks very well to us in 2013. In today’s first reading we hear from Habakkuk (rhymes with “have a look”), a prophet who was upset about what was happening in the world around him. Today’s reading, as in much of the short book of Habakkuk, we hear the prophet complaining very directly to God:
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.
We ourselves often feel like Habakkuk, wondering why God is not intervening in our lives or in the world, why he is not providing peace and ending violence in places like Syria, eliminating hunger and misery in third world countries, or eliminating the sickness, pain, loss, and suffering in our lives or the lives of our loved ones. We should see Habakkuk as our model and guide to having an open relationship with God. Just like the prophet we can complain very strongly to God about our thoughts and feelings about what is upsetting us about our life and the world around us. Every good relationship is built upon open and honest dialogue, and that is certainly true for our relationship with God. Our prayer should be open and honest so that our relationship with God may grow. Tell God everything you feel, he can handle it!
But God may not give us answers to all the questions that we have. In today’s reading God responds to Habakkuk’s complaints, not by answering them directly, but by saying:
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.
God is telling the prophet, and us as well, “Be patient! I will not tell you everything now. Wait for what I have in store for you! Have faith!” Faith is living today knowing that God has already taken care of tomorrow. That is very difficult for those of us that are used to living “on demand” lives where we can download or purchase books, music, and movies to our electronic devices in seconds, get instant answers to just about any question from the Internet, and can communicate with everyone we know at any time we want through phone, email, or texting. We are used to getting everything we want and we are used to getting it now! But our faith in God is not built by God following our plans, receiving what we want, when we want it. Our faith in God is built upon knowing that God has his plan for our life, it is unfolding as it should, in the time that it needs to take. I read a nice piece recently from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit, about the slow work of God. Here is an exerpt:
Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages…as though you could be today what time will make of you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
We must talk to God openly in prayer, but do so knowing that he is certainly working in our lives, maybe not in ways that we are currently hoping and probably not at the speed at which we would prefer, but God always does what is best for us because he loves us. Let us be patient. Let us have faith.