Lord, Why Don’t You Listen?

by Edmond Lo
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4

2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14

Luke 17:5-10

“How long, O LORD? I cry for help but you do not listen!” (Habakkuk 1:2) The exasperating lamentation of Habakkuk, whose prophetic ministry was exercised during one of the most diffi-cult times in the history of Israel – the Babylonian invasion of Judah - will resonate with many of us who seek to exercise our own prophetic ministry of promoting love, truth, and life in a world intoxicated with hatred, lies, and the culture of death.

Unprovoked and indiscriminate mass shootings driven by hatred and misguided ideologies; gov-ernment leaders who lie through their teeth and lie some more when their falsehood is exposed, believing that repetition of lies is the mother of all truths; politicians who barter in their souls in exchange for keeping their seats in the legislature; news media that defend their own freedom of press but are quick to trample the Church’s freedom of religion when they disagree with the Church’s moral values, especially on the issues of abortion and sex - such is the state of intoxica-tion of the world today. Like the woman of Revelation 17, “the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth”, the world is “drunk on the blood of the holy ones and on the blood of the witnesses to Jesus” (Rev 17:5-6).

“How long, O LORD? I cry for help but you do not listen!” (Habakkuk 1:2) Like Habakkuk, we wonder why God does not address the cry of anguish from the depth of our much-tormented souls. What should we do when it seems God just doesn’t care? “Stir into flame”, St. Paul re-minds us in this Sunday’s 2nd reading (2 Tm 1:6). “[D]o not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord…but bear your share of hardship for the gospel”, he says (2 Tm 1:8).

“But why?! Why should we bear our share of hardship for the gospel when God Himself doesn’t seem to care?” Many of us will rise in protest upon hearing St. Paul’s advice.

Difficult times call for difficult measures. This is the time when our faith in God is really put to the test. We are the servant in today’s gospel who is given one difficult task after another by his master. If we truly believe that God exists; that He is our Creator and our Lord; that He is loving, just, and good; that He is almighty and remains in control in spite of all the difficulties that we are experiencing in the world today; we should continue to do what He commands us, and have the faith and humility to see ourselves as His “unprofitable servants [who] have done what we were obliged to do” in bearing our share of hardship for the gospel (Lk 17:10). Moreover, as pointed out by St. Paul, take his advice “in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus”, and do so not by our own effort but “with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us” (2 Tm 1:13-14).

Like Jesus, whose cry of anguish on the cross – “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Ps. 22:2/Mk 15:34) – ends in a profession of trust (see Ps. 22:23ff) because of God’s res-cue, i.e. his resurrection; we must remain steadfast in our determination to follow Christ and con-tinue to live radically in love and holiness in spite of “the abominations of the earth” (Rev 17:6). Yes, the challenges are formidable; the temptation to give up is getting harder and harder to re-sist. But Jesus assures us in this Sunday’s gospel that faith no bigger than “the size of a mustard seed” is enough to uproot and plant a mulberry tree in the sea (Lk 17:6). “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). By faith, “things not seen” – what we long for while living in hope – will be fully realized, including our eventual triumph over death, resurrection, and glorification as the children of God.