27th Sunday Ordinary Time – October 3, 2010 – Jesus, Gandhi and Respect for Life
Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4, Psalm 95: 1-2, 6-9, 2 Timothy 1: 6-8, 13-14, Luke 17: 5-10
Complete biblical texts
Last week, Arthur Penn died. Although Mr. Penn directed many award winning movies like “The Miracle Worker” obituaries remember him for the way he shaped graphic violence in the film “Bonnie and Clyde.” Some wrote he helped usher in a new era in American film making.  For years, social scientists and media moguls have debated whether violence in movies, video games and television shows contributes to aggressive feelings and behaviors among young and old people. Both sides present compelling arguments. Whatever our opinions are on this issue we acknowledge that anger, rage, hatred, violence and now cyberbullying affects the quality of life all around us.
For some, today, Respect Life Sunday is a time to grow in awareness of these issues. We reflect on what it means to nurture reverence for all life — in prisons and shelters, on city streets and battlefields, inside and outside the womb, in hospital rooms and nursing homes, in neighborhoods and in our families, in our homes and dormitories. This day makes us aware and respectful of the rights each person has as we struggle with our own lives. Further, we ask, what role does God play in these situations?
The prophet Habakkuk (whose name means to wrestle or embrace) wondered the same thing, as recorded in the first reading this morning. “If God is good, why is there so much wrong in the world?” Habakkuk is outraged over violence, discord, injustice and believes that God is not doing a darn thing about it. God answers back to Habbakuk, in so many words: to be faithful is to act according to what you believe. 
We gather often in this sacred place for different reasons. To bless and thank God; to celebrate our encounters with God in the sacraments. To pray for ourselves and others around the world. We invoke citizens of heaven to intercede for us. We meet and greet familiar faces and new ones. Here in this church, for an hour or so, we enjoy a peaceful, hospitable existence. Some call it make believe. We believe it is a model, albeit imperfect, for living outside these walls. We wonder then, like Habakkuk, why is there so much wrong in the world? Why can’t life out there be like life here in this sacred place, made holy because you are here? What do we do about it and can we expect anything in return?
In the gospel this morning the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith. He surprises them with his reply. To grow in faith is very important. However, he challenged them to turn their faith into action and to expect no reward for doing so. The second reading reiterates the challenge Jesus made. We hear that God gives us gifts to be used for the common good. Now we are to keep that vision alive for as long as it takes and find ways to make it relevant to the contemporary world.  For the life of the world we will stand together … we will cry for justice. 
The psalm said we should not harden not our hearts when the voice of God speaks to us. That voice is not literally God’s. It could be the voice from a college student being bullied, a women in a unwanted pregnancy, a family member addicted to drugs, a prisoner unjustly incarcerated, a neighbor falling into bankruptcy. These are the voices we should not harden our hearts to.
This biblical text also summons us not to be cowards in society but bold, brazen, tireless advocates of what Jesus taught. The link between all of these passages this morning is this: if we are worried about violence and disrespect in the world, if we want to live in a peaceful society, we will work for justice. While in the United Kingdom Pope Benedict echoed this call when he said, “Religious faith is not a private experience or hobby, and it must be active in promoting justice and truth.”  It is an axiom to be followed in our church, our society, our own lives.
Yesterday was the International Day of Non-Violence, adopted by the United Nations in 2007 to honor the birth date of Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948).  Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence inspired many people, organizations and countries around this fragile globe to work tirelessly for freedom and equality. Like Habbakuk, Jesus and Gandhi, peacemakers today make the very same plea. Their message is not about being rewarded for doing something good on this planet. The message is to hear the voices of God and respond to them; it is a message about how each one of us is called to create a time and a space in life here and now where there is respect for all creatures.
2 Keathley, Hampton. ”Habakkuk” in bible.org. http://bible.org/seriespage/habakkuk
3 Fuller, Reginald. Preaching the Lectionary:The Word of God for the Church Today (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press. 1984 (Revised Edition) pp. 492, 509-10.
4 Haas, David. “For the Life of the World” in Gather (Chicago: GIA, 1994, 801)
5 Leachman, James. “Cast Out Your Nets” The Tablet. http://www.thetablet.co.uk/article/15344