Sunday, October 02, 2016

How Long, O LORD?

by Jim Bayne

How long, O LORD? I cry for help but you do not listen!  I cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not intervene.  (HAB 1:2)
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. (Ps 95:6-7)

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.
(2 TIM 1:7)

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.”  (LUKE 17:5-6)

Lord, I have faith about the size of a mustard seed. 
Surrounded by violence, I often wonder if that’s enough.
It is enough to bring me to my knees and to pray for your guidance.
In the silence, you remind me that you are still in control; you are still the shepherd.
Knowing you are at my side gives me the power and love and self-control to go forward.
Lord, help me to always remember that I am doing nothing special; it’s just my job.

In the first reading today, the prophet Habakkuk complains mightily: Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife and clamorous discord.”  Listening to this description, he could have just come away from watching a nightly news report on TV. 

Destruction, violence, strife, etc. are a few examples of the kinds of crosses each of us must sometimes bear. Jesus gives us the answer: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

This statement begins with the big IF: “If anyone wishes to follow...”  If you don’t wish to follow, then you can try doing it on your own. You DO have a free will.  Good luck!

Second challenging word is daily.  We don’t just take up the cross until we win the lottery; we are called to pick it up each and every day.  Our crosses may differ from day to day, but every day has its crosses to bear. 

When I begin to think my cross is too much, I remember Fr. Paul Berghout’s story in this space a couple of weeks ago about the pilgrim who sought to make his cross easier by cutting off several feet of it.  That worked fine until he reached a chasm where he needed those few extra feet to get across.  Nothing is wasted in God’s plan for our lives.

In the final segment of today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that our daily job of carrying the cross doesn’t make us someone special.  We don’t earn extra brownie points for carrying our cross; it’s part of our job description as followers of Christ.

We live in a violent and unnerving time.  It is very easy to get discouraged and want to give up.  When you get discouraged, – better yet, BEFORE you get discouraged – stop and take some time to be in the silence away from the TV, computer, smartphone... whatever it is that connects you to the chaos of our world.  Let God shepherd and console you. Let the silence restore your power to love and console others.

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