The prophet Habakkuk laments, â€œHow long, Lord, am I to cry for help while you will not listen; to cry â€œoppressionâ€ in your ear and you will not save?â€ He voices the desperation of his age and every age when the poor and innocent suffer. â€˜Why do they suffer?â€™ It is a question that has puzzled humanity from the beginning. Godâ€™s answer to Habakkuk is hard for the people of Aleppo to take; fulfilment will come, â€œif it comes slowly, wait, for come it will, without fail â€¦ the upright man will live by his faithfulness.â€
Thatâ€™s a tough answer â€“ enough to strain the patience of Job. So, in the midst of Russian bombing and the death of my children, I am to wait in patience, trusting that God will bring deliverance? Yes and no. We really are called to â€˜live by faith.â€™ Paul based his whole letter to the Romans, his most influential letter, on his firm grasp of this. At the same time he did everything to struggle against the evil of his time, denouncing, cajoling and encouraging in turn.
If we simply say â€œwait in patienceâ€ we are doing what Marx said religion does: it anaesthetises the sufferer. No, we have to struggle mightily against the evil. But at the same time we are called to believe that God suffers too with his people and is working to bring relief but in his way and his time. This cannot be done speedily because we have to work through the consequences of the evil choices we make. There is no glossing over our actions, no quick fix.
The disciples in Lukeâ€™s gospel say; â€œIncrease our faith!â€ They cannot, as yet, understand how God is at work but at least they know they do not understand. That is a beginning. Paul tells Timothy to â€œfan into a flameâ€ the gift he was given. We are at the centre of a struggle â€“ tempted to despair on the one hand and struggling to believe on the other.
I am reading a book about the unbelievable misery of the lives of the Irish peasants in the eighteenth century. This is not the place to expand on this but when we look at the subsequent history of the Irish we can see an extraordinary rebirth. I am not saying the Syrians have to wait two centuries. Things happen faster these days. But there is hope so long as we keep faith.
2 October 2016Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Sunday 27 C
Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Luke 17:5-10Post published in: Faith