Today we hear for the only time in the 3-yr Sunday cycle from the prophet Habbakuk. This prophet comes right before the Babylonian exile and he sees it unfolding right before his eyes. God seems to be abandoning His people to these big nasty bullies, and the Prophet Habbakuk tries to intervene: “How long, O Lord?!” Don't you see this evil people rising up – they will certainly wipe your people out! And what does God do? God doesn't give him a direct answer. I think all of us can relate to this prophet: we see evil in our world, we see the success and worldly praise of the wicked. We ourselves throughout our life will have to suffer tragedy, injustice, destruction and abandonment. Sometimes it's a small thing: we get sick and feel weak and can't even stand the smell of food. Other times it's a big thing: loss of human life, a falling out between friends as we go separate ways. We ourselves cry out to God: “Why, Lord? Why did you have to take him? When will you stop this hurting?”
What is God's answer? Instead of speaking directly, he tells Habbakuk: “Hold on to the vision and pass it on. Wait for it! It will not disappoint!” God calls us to hope – to remember that not all is lost, and that He has a plan. God wants us to stake our lives on Him, not on the things He gives us, and that's why sometimes He takes those safety nets away.
CCC1820 Christian hope unfolds from the beginning of Jesus' preaching in the proclamation of the beatitudes. The beatitudes raise our hope toward heaven as the new Promised Land; they trace the path that leads through the trials that await the disciples of Jesus. But through the merits of Jesus Christ and of his Passion, God keeps us in the "hope that does not disappoint."88 Hope is the "sure and steadfast anchor of the soul . . . that enters . . . where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf."89 Hope is also a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation: "Let us . . . put on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation."90 It affords us joy even under trial: "Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation."91 Hope is expressed and nourished in prayer, especially in the Our Father, the summary of everything that hope leads us to desire.
Hope then is founded on our faith in the Cross. And that is God's great answer to the questions we have in life. When we ask “Why Lord?” He does not give us a straight answer. Rather, God tells us a story, a story about His Son who freely chose the most painful death so that we could be healed from all the suffering in our world. God says, “Look at the Cross and see how much I love you.”
We are called to faith, just as Jesus says in the Gospel, “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.” Jesus wants us to acknowledge that God is God and we are not – and when we do this, then we will move obstacles (or God will do it for us).
So when we are confronted with suffering in life (and it certainly will come), let us every day look to the Cross, let us remember God's answer, let us declare it to ourselves and witness it to others. Lord Jesus, in the Eucharist from this Mass, fill our hearts with the healing that you alone bring to the world!
CCC1821 We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will.92 In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere "to the end"93 and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for "all men to be saved."94 She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven:
(Teresa of Avila) Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.95
God's love is meant to be the cause of our actions, not the result. We serve God because He has loved us so completely and unconditionally in our lives, not because we are trying to win Him over to us. The second brother in the parable of the prodigal son was the opposite: He tried to love His Father in order to earn things. God is madly in love with us already, but our backwards world makes us forget that so easily because in school and work we are constantly trying to climb ladders, receiving praise for the good we do and meriting rewards for it. God is not like that.