“Have faith in God. Be strong.” It’s the advice we give to a family member or friend when they go through turmoil, serious illness, or difficulty. It’s because, often, it’s the only treasure we hold on to under any distress.
It’s not merely a piece of pious advice but one that challenges a person to bear any hardship in the spirit of the Gospel “with the strength that comes from God.” (1Timothy: 13-14)
For us Christians, to have faith in God means to identify ourselves with the Crucified Christ. He bore his sufferings and submitted himself to crucifixion and death to save us from sin and share in his resurrection.
The imprisoned Paul gives the same advice to Timothy, his young emissary, in the Second Reading this Sunday (October 2). Paul tells him to have courage and strength in bearing witness to the Lord and upholding Paul himself, even though he is detained and deprived of his freedom for the sake of Christ. “Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells with us,” Paul encourages Timothy.
Having an increased faith means possessing patience and hope. That’s what the First Reading from the Book of Prophet Habakkuk (2:2-4) also conveys: “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 just one, because of faith shall live.”
In this short book, which bears his name, when Habakkuk questions Yahweh’s governance of the world, God answers with the assurance of an eventual emergence of order and salvation: the present moment of suffering and chastisement calls for a living and dynamic faith. Indeed, confidence in Yahweh’s fidelity enables the virtuous to endure the pain of the present reality, confident that the Lord’s design will ultimately triumph.
As I reflect on this message, I think of our ill family members and friends, such as those with cancer or those that had a stroke. I may not feel their physical pain, but I feel their fear, anxiety, and distress. So I ask that we all keep them in our prayers. May they have the faith that moves mountains, that brings peace and courage to face their battle of illness. And may they feel our support, love, and prayers. Amen.
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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.
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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.