Even prophets get down in the dumps. In our first reading this Sunday (Hab 1:2-3; 2:2-4) the prophet Habakkuk is disturbed by the evil of his day, but even more by God’s apparent inaction: “I cry out to you ‘Violence!’ but you do not intervene.”
Reading the daily news, we can readily sympathize with him: “Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and clamorous discord.” Perhaps, like Habakkuk, we are disturbed by the evil of our day. Perhaps we too are wondering what God is doing, or why he is not doing more.
Following Habakkuk’s distressed protestations, God responds with confident assurances. What God has planned “presses on to fulfillment and will not disappoint.” He then tells the prophet, “the rash one has no integrity; but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.” This a gentle reminder to Habbakuk not to judge the situation too quickly. He should not conclude that, because evil seems to triumph, God is inactive or powerless. If the prophet persists in that outlook, he will fail to see it through to the end. His discouragement will overwhelm him; his strength will fail.
Troubled by our own times, we are subject to the same risk of discouragement. But, as we are reminded by St. Paul this weekend (2Tim 1:6-8, 13-14), “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” God has given us a Spirit of endurance. Avoiding rash judgments, we take the long view. We remember the works of God in the past, and we turn with confidence to him in this time, believing that “all things work for good for those who love God” (Rom 8:28). The key is our faith. Our faith gives us strength in times of weakness. Our faith is a light when things are darkest.
The disciples this Sunday (Lk 17:5-10) ask the Lord, “Increase our faith” (more precisely translated, “give us faith”). Understandably, they want the gift of faith, and all the good that comes with it. But notice, our Lord responds by speaking to them about obedience. Faith is a gift. But as with any gift, we don’t get to decide what it contains. We can only receive faith if we choose to obey what it contains.
Not unlike the ancient prophets, we live in confusing times. Such times test faith. Today some abandon their faith, some call for it to change, some simply choose to be quiet. But we are not the masters of our faith. Rather, we are “unprofitable servants.” We can choose to obey our faith or not, “but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.”