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Power steering is one of the automotive industry’s greatest contributions to global productivity. It made it easier for us beasts of burden to not only carry this world’s heavy loads, but to maneuver them around its obstacles.
This feature is now standard on most vehicles we drive. But like the faith that’s become standard equipment for the faithful, we often take it for granted. Drivers often forget we have power steering until we don’t anymore, whether due to simple wear and tear or a complex act of God. The same goes for faith. Losing the power of faith we’ve invested in any blessing we take for granted makes us more vulnerable than ever to this world’s burdens. We soon realize life’s a lot harder without the ability to invest our faith in anything meaningful.
Faith’s the standard feature that comes with this Sunday’s readings too. In each of them, someone carrying a heavy burden needs to be reminded of this feature God engineered into them. It starts with Habakkuk’s first complaint (Hab 1:2-3; 2:2-4).
How long, O LORD? I cry for help but you do not listen! … There is strife, and clamorous discord. Then the LORD answered me and said: Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily. 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.
What Habakkuk wrote about faith sounds similar to the standard feature Paul refers to in our second reading taken from his own writings to Timothy (2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14). Both documents remind us to get reacquainted with what’s under our hood when we feel like we’ve run out of power.
God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but 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 faith is humanity’s power steering, God’s spirit is our power source. But even Christ’s disciples occasionally ran out of gas and felt overwhelmed by the burdens weighing them down along “The Way.” When that happened, they asked their Master for help. “Increase our faith,” they pleaded.
First he chastises them for forgetting their power source and therefore the high-performance feature that comes with discipleship (Lk 17:5-10).
“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.”
Then he reminds his disciples what they’re studying to become and what God made them to be: servants! He invites them into his parable of the master and the servant, which should also teach us 21st centurions that in helping others carry their burdens, we are serving God. And in serving God, we are well served.
“Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink,” the Master in this parable tells his servant. “You may eat and drink when I am finished.”
Our burden is relieved when we remember to maintain the standard equipment we came with and to respect its power source. By letting our faith steer us while the Spirit moves us, we can enjoy this ride called life.