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Terrance KleinSeptember 28, 2022
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Habakkuk 1: 2-3; 2:2-4 2 Timothy 1: 6-8, 13-14 Luke 17: 5-10

Knowing that the tragedy was coming never stopped it from tearing at my heart. When I was a kid, “The Wizard of Oz” returned to network television once a year. Every year, awaiting her final triumph, children traveled afresh through all of Dorothy’s tears and terrors. And every year, my soul sank when Toto saw a cat and jumped out of the departing hot air balloon at the last moment. Dorothy followed her dog, and the Wizard of Oz, who had promised to take her back to Kansas, floated away, along with hope itself. More tears would follow!

Of course, each year, Dorothy would learn that the power of return to that Kansas farm had always been with her. Real desire, and three taps of those ruby slippers, would take her home!

The way to believe in the vision is to immerse ourselves ever more deeply in the life of the vision keeper, the mystery that we call the church.

Eventually I realized that the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion were themselves Kansans. They were the farmhands Hunk, Zeke and Hickory. So, even though Dorothy had been in a technicolor world of terror and wonder, she had never really left the company of her companions. Intelligence, heart and courage had walked with her all the way through Oz.

The disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith. That seems as proper as prayer intentions come. We are always told to do the same, to ask the Lord to increase our faith. That’s why the tone of impatience in his response is hard not to notice, even though we do not comment upon it.

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 (Lk 17:6).

Our Lord then adds that it is not a question of more grace being given to us in the form of faith. It is rather an issue of action on our part. Are we ready to move forward, to act upon the faith that we have?

That seemed simple enough 2,000 years ago. Now, it seems harder. For the first time in generations, at least in the West, most of us no longer believe that life is getting better, either for the individual or for society. Indeed, global warming perfectly expresses the spirit of our age. The world itself has grown tired of our selfishness, and it has turned against us.

We only hear these words from the prophet Habakkuk once every three years, always on the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

For the vision still has its time,

presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint

if it delays, wait for it,

it will surely come, it will not be late.

The rash one has no integrity;

but the just one, because of his faith, shall live (2:3-4).

List some of the troubles that did not exist the last time that we heard this prophecy, in 2019: Covid, the war in Ukraine, inflation, energy shortages, increased racial animosity. Does the vision still have its time? Is it pressing on to fulfillment? Are we sure that it will not disappoint?

Those are good questions. Do they have an answer, or should we start praying for more faith? But you see, just like Dorothy, the answer has always been with us. The way to believe in the vision, to ready ourselves for its completion, is to immerse ourselves ever more deeply in the life of the vision keeper, the mystery that we call the church.

That’s one way to understand the nature of the church, its purpose and its many manifestations. The church keeps the vision. Encounter the church and you encounter the vision, you hear it proclaimed.

Emily Dickinson has a small poem on the power of the spoken word:

A word is dead

When it is said,

Some say.

I say it just

Begins to live

That day.

One spouse never says to another, “I told you that I loved you on the day we married. Isn’t that enough?” Truth never comes to us once for all. It must always be restated, relearned and reinforced. Community is one of the ways that happens.

Your imagination is much too tiny if the word “church” summons up images of hierarchy. That has its God-given role to play but by itself it is no more church than the Wizard is the Land of Oz. No, the church is that community of people who keep the vision, who live the vision. Or, we might say, the vision keeps them. It offers them life.

For the vision still has its time,

presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint

That’s never been easy to believe, yet our Lord expects us to quit our fretting and to act in faith. The power to find our way home has always been with us.

There is only one way to believe the vision, and that is to live the vision. That’s what we call the church: those who keep the vision.

Beloved:

I remind you, to stir into flame

the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice

but rather of power and love and self-control (2 Tim 1:6-7).

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