Daily Homily: The Just Man, Because of His Faith, Shall Live

Saturday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time, Year Two

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Habakkuk 1:12-2:4
Psalm 9:8-9,10-11,12-13
Matthew 17:14-20

Habakkuk describes himself as Israel’s watchman, who stands guard on the wall of the city of Jerusalem (2:1-3). He was a prophet in Judah sometime after Babylon’s rise to power in 612 B.C. and sometime before Babylon’s first siege of Jerusalem in 597 B.C.

In today’s first reading, we listen to Habakkuk’s dialogue with the Lord: the prophet complains about the injustice and the violence he sees around him in the kingdom of Judah: «Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise» (1:3). God responds telling the prophet that he is sending the Babylonians (the Chaldeans) as instruments of his judgment on Judah (1:5-11).

Habakkuk recognizes that the Babylonians have been ordained by God as a judgment on Judah and has established them for chastisement, to punish Judah. At the same time, the Babylonians are themselves unrighteous (1:13), unrestrained in their onslaught (1:15), idolaters (1:16), and savagely brutal (1:17). The prophet «is accusing God of inflicting a remedy that was worse than the malady» (T. Leclerc, Introduction to the Prophets, Paulist Press, 230). And so, Habakkuk complains again: How could the Lord allow Babylon (the wicked) to descend upon his people (the righteous) (1:12-17)? God responds telling him to wait for the vision and teaches him that «the righteous shall live by their faith» (2:2-4).

For Habakkuk, the righteous are those who live faithfully while awaiting vindication from God; people must have faith that God’s plan will come to pass and that justice will be established (T. Leclerc, Introduction to the Prophets, Paulist Press, 230). When Habakkuk speaks about faith, he contrasts the faith of Judah with the arrogance of Babylon. «Faith to Habakkuk is a trusting reliance on the Lord in the face of great adversity. This basic trust will cause the righteous (‘upright’) people of Judah to survive beyond the term of the unrighteous Babylonians» (M. Duggan, The Consuming Fire, Ignatius Press, 286).

The message of the vision Habakkuk receives is that God’s justice will indeed prevail: the righteous will live but the arrogant man (2:5) will be punished. «With the perspective of faith, Habakkuk sees into Nebuchadnezzar’s behavior. He perceives that the Babylonian leader stands under God’s judgment. He announces the five woes of divine condemnation on the Babylonians’ international plunder (2:7-8), ill-gotten wealth (2:9-11), barbarism (2:12-13), mercilessness (2:15-17), and idolatry (2:18-20)» (M. Duggan, The Consuming Fire, Ignatius Press, 286). The vision is God’s answer to Habakkuk’s earlier complaints. «Yes, indeed, injustice and violence abound. Yes, the world seems turned upside down. But despite the appearance of divine impotence, there is the mighty and powerful God whose plan and purpose will prevail» (T. Leclerc, Introduction to the Prophets, Paulist Press, 231).

Habakkuk ends his book with a prayer. He contemplates God’s heavenly glory and sees the earth sing God’s praise (3:3). God is powerful and, just as he divided the Red Sea and the Jordan River in the past for his people (3:8), will again save his people: «You went forth for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed» (3:13). The prophet waits patiently for the day of trouble to come upon the Babylonians who are about to invade Judah (3:16). «Habakkuk teaches us that when our situation seems desolate, we can have greater cause for rejoicing and renew our strength because of the revelation the Lord will offer to those who seek him. Patient trust in God bears the fruit of joy and vigor (3:17-19)». (M. Duggan, The Consuming Fire, Ignatius Press, 286).

Faith is at the center of today’s Gospel. The disciples are unable to drive out the demon from the possessed boy because of their «little faith». If only they had faith the size of a mustard seed, they could move mountains. Unfortunately, the disciples belong a faithful and perverse generation in need of redemption and the gift of the Holy Spirit. With this gift, they will grow in their faith. And this is evident in the mighty deeds, signs and wonders done in the Acts of the Apostles. Faith is a gift from God and not a human conquest. It is a gift that justifies man and introduces him into divine life.

Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

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Jason Mitchell

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