Don Bosco Philippines South Province

Salesians of Don Bosco – Philippine South Province FIS

Faith on a Wheelbarrow

Homily on the 27th Sunday in OT – 2 Oct 2022, St. John Bosco Parish, Liloan, Cebu

Allow me to begin with a story which I have read when I was still in high school. There was once a man who used to walk on a tight rope high above the ground from post to post. One day he performed before a big crowd in the town plaza. After having successfully crossed over to the other side without holding a balancing pole he bowed before the people who gave him a big round of applause. Then he continued his performance on the same tight rope but this time dancing and tumbling without losing his balance. Finally he crossed from one end to the other this time pushing a wheelbarrow with a big stuffed toy, a teddy bear on it. All the people watched quietly in great suspense as he carefully maintained his balance behind the wheelbarrow. When he finally got it to the other side, the people burst into a thunderous applause and loud cheers. They shouted “Wow! That was so amazing! Bilib na talaga kami sa ‘yo!” while he bowed acknowledging their praises, saying thank you. Then he signaled for silence. When all the cheering stopped, he spoke “If you truly believe in me, kung talagang bilib kayo sa akin, I want one volunteer to come up here and ride the wheelbarrow.

The man’s words fell on deaf ears. No one dared to volunteer and be on the wheelbarrow. If you were among the crowd applauding him, would you have the courage to volunteer yourself? Would you give your full trust in that man and allow him to take you safely across the tight rope on a wheelbarrow?

Dear brothers and sisters we are now on the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time. In about six weeks time the liturgical year will be over. Coincidentally our liturgy today is about our faith and trust in the Lord. All this time that we have been coming to Mass has our faith been growing? Or is our faith somehow like that of the crowd in the story I shared with you, still tiny and superficial, kutob ra sa pagpakpak pero walay pagsalig…hanggang palakpak lang, pero walang pagtitiwalang nagmumula sa puso? We often say we believe in the Lord, but do we really trust him wholeheartedly. In fact, every Sunday we come to Mass and after the homily we recite altogether the Creed “I believe in God, the Father almighty… I believe in Jesus Christ,… I believe in the Holy Spirit,…” However, don’t you realize that at times your faith remains shallow and superficial, if not fake or artificial? When big problems and difficult trials come, we fear and worry a lot; we panic and sometimes even complain against God. Some people eventually resort to violence or embrace superstitious practices.

This brings us to the first reading today. The prophet Habakkuk spoke to God on behalf of the people, saying, “How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, “Violence!” But you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin? Why must I look at misery?” In other words during his time, Habakkuk was seeing so many people being killed everyday and yet the Lord seemed to be unmoved, unaffected, unresponsive to their plea. God seemed to be simply allowing wicked men to engage in violent activities while innocent people suffer and die as victims of cruel oppression and injustice. Our own Filipino artist Gary Valenciano has expressed this for us long ago with his very popular song “Natutulog ba ang Diyos?”

There is, however, a brighter side in Habakkuk’s sad story. God answered him with an assurance that everything will be put right at the proper time. Justice will soon prevail. He said, “If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come… the rash one (the one who grows impatient and cannot wait) has no integrity; but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.”

I know you have many questions, particularly why tragedies are happening to us one after the other. Sometimes they are man-made; at other times they are natural calamities like, typhoons, flashfloods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. With Habakkuk, we also ask the Lord today “How long, O Lord? We cry for help but you do not listen! We cry out to you, “Violence! Calamity! Pandemic” But you do not intervene. Why do you let us see ruin? Why must we look at misery?” Brothers and sisters, let us not lose our faith. Do not allow evil to take way your hope and trust in the Lord. Like in the days of Habakkuk, the Lord assures us that everything will be put right at the proper time, and that justice and peace will soon prevail.

We pray therefore using the same words that the apostles addressed to Jesus “Lord, increase our faith.” But what does this prayer really mean? It means that we want our faith to grow to maturity and may take us to a much higher level of fully trusting in the Lord, no matter what happens.

It is true that whenever we pray we almost always receive what we ask for. And more than that we also get things which we do not even ask from God because God knows we need them. But when we start to be deprived of the things we used to have, things that really matter to us and are as valuable as health and human life itself, shall we still believe in Him and remain faithful to him? Shall we continue to trust that God will still be in full control when things do not go the way we want them to?

It’s so ironic that we can trust people whom we do not personally know. We buy street food or food cooked in an expensive restaurant, and we trust that the cooks will not poison us. We ride the jeepney or habal-habal, and we don’t really care who the driver might be. We just trust that the driver will bring us safely to the place where we are going. If we can trust people whom we do not know why can’t we bring back that same trust towards the members of our family? Similarly, why can’t we upgrade our faith in the Lord and raise it up to the level of fully trusting in Him whatever may be happening in our lives?

The good news is this: Jesus himself in the Gospel today tells very emphatically, “If you had faith like a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.” I had a chance to see for myself how big a mustard seed is and I was terribly disappointed. Why? Because I found out that mustard seeds are no bigger than the seeds of tomatoes or guavas. They are so small. They are so tiny they can be easily blown by the wind. However what amazes us is the assurance of Jesus who said that if we only had faith the size of a mustard seed, then we could do seemingly impossible things in our life.

I myself have seen with my own eyes and can testify to the many wondrous deeds God has done through persons who have great faith in him:

I have seen several people young and old who have been healed and have recovered from serious illnesses including terminal cancer and some of them up to now are still alive; I myself have seen with my own eyes how a donation of bread has multiplied into five thousand loaves for a thousand victims of a devastating typhoon… all these through the power of faith and trust in Jesus.

Let me conclude with a striking statement from the second reading today. In his letter to the bishop named Timothy, who was undergoing several trials in his ministry, St Paul sent encouraging words as follows: “Do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord… bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God… Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.”

If we are undergoing big trials now, let us be encouraged by the power of our faith in God knowing that behind the wheelbarrow pushing us across the tight rope of life is no other than Jesus. For those of us whose faith has not yet even reached the size of a mustard seed, let us pray in this Holy Mass, saying “Lord, increase our faith, and empower us to do what is seemingly impossible.” God is good…. Sobra, sobra, sobra!

Disclaimer: This section of the website is a personal creative writing of the author and does not necessarily reflect the official views, opinion, or policies of the Salesians of Don Bosco – Philippines South Province. For concerns on the content, style, and grammar of this piece, please contact us.

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