Increased Faith to Follow the Lord Along the Everlasting Way, 32nd Monday (I), November 11, 2013

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Monday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Martin of Tours — Veteran’s Day
November 11, 2013
Wis 1:1-7, Ps 139, Lk 17:1-6

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click here: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today in the Gospel we encounter what I’ve calling the “unofficial motto” of the Year of Faith since we began this ecclesiastical holy year: audage nobis fidem! — “Lord, increase our faith!” When this passage of St. Luke’s Gospel occurred at Sunday Mass back on October 6, Pope Francis said during his Angelus meditation, “It seems that all of us can make our own this invocation. Just like the apostles, we should say to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ Yes, Lord, our faith is small, weak, fragile,  but we offer it to you as it is so that you can make it grow.” Then he led the tens of thousands assembled in St. Peter’s Square in joint prayer to the Lord, “Lord, increase our faith! Lord, increase our faith! Lord, increase our faith!” He then went on to say that even if our faith is small like a mustard seed, it is still powerful enough to do unthinkable, impossible things, as we see in so many parents who with faith confront very heavy situations, or those who are severely ill who nevertheless live because of faith with great serenity. Today, all of us say, “Lord, increase our faith!”
  • We see in the Gospel there is a clear context for why we need faith. The apostles ask for it immediately after Jesus talks about the evil of scandal and the need constantly to ask for forgiveness of God and others and to give it when someone asks it of us. One of the most important parts of our life of faith is our recognition that just as God never tires of forgiving us, we should never tire of asking him for forgiveness and of sharing a similar mercy with others. This is hard. It requires great humility to ask for forgiveness. It requires greater humility to give it. Jesus is calling us not merely to give people a second chance, but an eighth chance. And in another part of the Gospel he says, depending upon the translation, that we need to give a 78th chance or a 491st chance. In order to be capable of doing this, we need his help, we need the strength that comes from faith. That’s why we humbly beg, “Increase our faith!”
  • There’s also another aspect to today’s Gospel for which we need increase faith. Jesus describes someone who gives scandal to another and says not that we should forgive 7 times a day but that he should have a millstone tied around his neck and thrown into the sea. Pope Francis this morning in his homily in the Vatican said that there is a big difference between a “sinner” who needs to be forgiven and a “scandalizer.” A sinner repents and comes to say to God and others from the heart, “I’m sorry.” A scandalizer doesn’t repent. He just goes on with the sinful behavior, settling an example of sin for others. Jesus says, “Woe” to him. Pope Francis this morning said that the one who causes scandal has become corrupt. He’s no longer sinning because of weakness, but because of choice. He no longer is humbly coming to ask for mercy, because he has begun to think that his sinful conduct doesn’t need to be forgiven, that it’s precisely the right thing to do. A scandalizer sins proudly, with an air of self-righteous defiance of God and others. We see it, for example, in those politicians who support abortion and claim that they’re just following their conscience. We see it in those people who proudly make excuses for not coming to Church or to Confession. We see it in those people who relate to illegal immigrants with hearts full of stone, calling for policies in their regard that they would never ask for if they were dealing with people whom they looked at as brothers and sisters whom they should love. To this circumstance as well, the disciples cry out, “Lord, increase our faith!,” because we, too, can be in a situation of setting scandal for others — not just setting bad example by weakness, but setting it with supposed justification. As we ask the Lord for an increase in faith, we are asking him for the light that comes from faith so that we may examine our consciences appropriately, see our spiritual blind spots and look at our behavior from God’s perspective, and come, even seven times a day, to say, “Lord, have mercy on me!”
  • In the first reading from the Book of Wisdom, God describes for us the life of faith that he intends. He calls us to “love justice,” “think of the Lord in goodness,” “seek the Lord in integrity of heart.” These are all expressions that say that our hearts, our minds, and our actions should be aligned with God and his holy wisdom. The greatest criticisms Jesus gave in the Gospel were for those “hypocrites” who said one thing, but did another, who on the outside were beautiful in terms of their religious practice but who on the inside were sepulchers full of dead men’s bones. They were people, to use the words of the Book of Wisdom, whose souls plotted evil, regardless of what their lips claimed. They caused great scandal, leading others to a totally false way of relating to God and others. Jesus calls us, rather, to genuine integrity. That’s what the life of faith is all about.
  • We call out today, “Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way!” The everlasting way is the exact opposite of the way of scandal! We remember that he probes us, he understands our thoughts from afar, he scrutinizes us and is familiar with all our ways. We recognize that he is everywhere around us, wants to guide us, and hold us fast with his right hand. This everlasting way is the life of faith. For many of us, the Lord has a mustard seed’s portion of our life. He wants our union with him to grow into such a large plant that many others can rest in the our limbs.
  • Today we celebrate the feast of a saint whose faith increased enormously, who not only was guided by the Lord along the everlasting way, but guided others along that same path. When St. Martin of Tours was young, he was a catechumen whose faith was small, but he began to recognize that God wanted more, that he wanted more. A major increase in faith happened when he was serving in the Roman Army in the city of Amiens in northern France. He was approaching the city gates there on his horse when he saw a shivering beggar in basically his underwear. He dismounted and unsheathed his large Roman lance. The beggar wondered what was to become of him. But Martin used the sword to slice his warm Roman winter cape in two, covered the beggar with one half and kept the second half for himself. That night, Christ appeared to him in a dream wearing Martin’s half-cape and said, “Martin, the unbaptized Roman soldier, has clad me.” That experience of faith working through love led him to be baptized. He recognized he couldn’t follow the Lord along the everlasting way by remaining a Roman soldier so he got discharged and became a monk, founding essentially the first monastery in all of Gaul, so that he and others with him could grow in faith and love. After 12 years, through the work of St. Hilary of Poitiers, he was appointed Bishop of Tours, where over the next quarter-century, he sought to bring to faith and to increase the faith of all the people in the region. He taught them how to pray. He fought against false teachings of the faith, seeking to help people build their whole lives on the true faith. His is a great example for us. Especially on this Veteran’s Day, he shows us that the best soldiers and best Christians are  soldiers of Christ. We ask his intercession that the Lord may increase our faith to be more and more like St. Martin’s!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
WIS 1:1-7

Love justice, you who judge the earth;
think of the Lord in goodness,
and seek him in integrity of heart;
Because he is found by those who test him not,
and he manifests himself to those who do not disbelieve him.
For perverse counsels separate a man from God,
and his power, put to the proof, rebukes the foolhardy;
Because into a soul that plots evil, wisdom enters not,
nor dwells she in a body under debt of sin.
For the holy Spirit of discipline flees deceit
and withdraws from senseless counsels;
and when injustice occurs it is rebuked.
For wisdom is a kindly spirit,
yet she acquits not the blasphemer of his guilty lips;
Because God is the witness of his inmost self
and the sure observer of his heart
and the listener to his tongue.
For the Spirit of the Lord fills the world,
is all-embracing, and knows what man says.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 139:1B-3, 4-6, 7-8, 9-10

R. (24b) Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
O LORD, you have probed me and you know me;
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.
R. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know the whole of it.
Behind me and before, you hem me in
and rest your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
too lofty for me to attain.
R. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence where can I flee?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I sink to the nether world, you are present there.
R. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
Even there your hand shall guide me,
and your right hand hold me fast.
R. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.

Gospel
LK 17:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples,
“Things that cause sin will inevitably occur,
but woe to the one through whom they occur.
It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck
and he be thrown into the sea
than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.
Be on your guard!
If your brother sins, rebuke him;
and if he repents, forgive him.
And if he wrongs you seven times in one day
and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’
you should forgive him.”And 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.”