Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s first reading comes from the Prophet Habakkuk. Habakkuk lived around 650 years before the Lord. It was a time of violence, and destruction, the Jews themselves were continually assaulting each other. Hatred and violence were seen as part of life, even accepted. And, you know, Habakkuk’s society was not all that much different than ours, where violence and might are glorified and the weak are kept in their place.

This is Respect Life Sunday, the beginning of an entire month that the Catholic Church in the United States dedicates to pray for the respect of life from natural conception until natural death. Our country allows unique lives to be murdered before birth. And we have to ask for mercy and compassion from our God. The point is that violence is all around us.

Add to this the latest horrors that the media show us perhaps because people really want to hear about and even see the violent details. Put it all together and as a People of God we can join Habakkuk and cry out, How Long, O Lord, We cry out to you, but you do not intervene[1].

Habakkuk’s prayer is answered by the Lord. He is told to write this down: The rash one has no integrity, but the just one, because of his faith, shall live. What does that mean? This is the clue and key for our Sunday Eucharistic celebration. Integrity is the strength of personality that allows someone to be wholesome, sincere, one with himself or herself, one with others, and one with God. The just one, because of his integrity and faith, lives with the Lord[2].

In his last apostolic trip, His Holiness Benedict XVI, said: «How much contemporary society needs witness! How much we need, in the Church and in society, witnesses of the beauty of holiness, witnesses of the splendour of truth, witnesses of the joy and freedom born of a living relationship with Christ! One of the greatest challenges facing us today is how to speak convincingly of the wisdom and liberating power of God’s word to a world which all too often sees the Gospel as a constriction of human freedom, instead of the truth which liberates our minds and enlightens our efforts to live wisely and well, both as individuals and as members of society.»[3]

So, how do we deal with the violence around us? We have been conditioned by a violent society to respond to violence with violence, even escalating the situation. So we rejoin a nasty word with a vicious word, we respond to a dirty deed with an even more horrible one. That is not the way of Christ. That is not the way of the Church. So what, then is it that we are called to do? We are called to have faith in God to set our world straight. We are told to have an active faith in God.

But we are weak. Our faith is weak. We know that God’s solutions are infinitely better than ours, but we decide to take matters in our own hands. We need faith. And here we are, because we need strength and magnanimity. We have to set up the peace at home, at work, in the parish. We have to be instruments of peace.

In the middle of a violent world and recognizing our own weakness, we come together today to pray for faith and for the courage to live our faith, our beautiful Catholic faith. Violence is not more powerful than God. We have to put our trust in God. God can and will destroy whatever the violence is that is assaulting us.

We call out to God today: Give us, O Lord, the faith to be People of God, People of Sacrificial Love, and help us join you in the destruction of evil in our lives and in the world. May we be people of integrity, one with ourselves, one with others and one with you, our God. Amen ■

[1] Cfr Hab 1:2-3; 2:2-4
[2] Prisoner 16670 knew this message and lived it. He was a Franciscan Father named Maximilian Kolbe. Fr. Kolbe was a brilliant journalist in the Catholic Church in Poland during the 1920's and 30th.  At one point, his publication, the Knight of the Immaculata, ran 750,000 copies a month.  He traveled to Asia and founded monasteries in Japan and India.  When he returned to Poland, he spoke out against the Nazis who had invaded his country and were rounding up the Jews.  At one point his monastery housed 3,000 Polish refugees, two thirds of them Jews hiding from the Nazis.  The Franciscans were arrested by the Nazis and Maximilian Kolbe was sent to the death camp of Auschwitz.  There he was branded, Prisoner 16670.  Destruction and violence were all around him.  But he kept his faith in God and lived as a man of faith. In July of 1941, a number of prisoners escaped from the camp.  The Nazi’s lined up the other prisoners to carry out their policy of punishing those who remained for not alerting the guards.  Ten prisoners were to be killed for every prisoner who escaped.  Francis Gajowniczek, a married man with young children was one of those chosen for death. Maximilian Kolbe stepped forward and said, “Take me, instead.”  He was put into the starvation barracks.  Three weeks later, still alive, on August 14, 1941, he was killed with an injection of carbonic acid.  He was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1982.  St. Maximilian Kolbe knew violence. He experienced it. In the middle of violence, though, he remained a man of integrity, a man of peace.  He lived his faith joining his patron, Francis of Assisi, in praying that he might be an instrument of the Lord’s peace.  And he has been justified, honored by God and man, by God in heaven and by man on earth.
[3] Benedict XVI, Homily at the Eucharistic Celebration at Cathedral of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, City of Westminster, Saturday, 18 September 2010. You can see the whole text:

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris