Kathleen Giffin


Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 2, 2016
Habakkuk 1.2-3; 2.2-4 | Psalm 95 | 2 Timothy 1.6-8, 13-14 | Luke 17.5-10
September 26, 2016

An occupational hazard for those who work closely with the suffering of others is "compassion fatigue."

It is a condition of discouragement and hopelessness that arises from experiencing, day after day, year after year, the suffering of others, from witnessing the consequences of the harm that humans are capable of doing, one to another.

As a Christian who does this kind of work, I sometimes find myself echoing the words of Habakkuk, asking God how long he is going to put up with the troubles we have down here, how much longer the children must suffer at the hands of their fathers, the innocent be brutalized for the ideology of their persecutors.

Guard the good treasure entrusted to you with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us - 2 Timothy 1.14

'Guard the good treasure entrusted to you with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.'

2 Timothy 1.14

Habakkuk says, "Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me."

There is nothing mild and curious about such questions, it is a plea for justice, an entreaty for an end to gratuitous suffering.

One does not need to be employed in a helping capacity to understand and relate to Habakkuk's words.

A daily viewing of the news, awareness of the difficulties of one's family, friends and neighbours, even a glimpse of the historians' view of the times we live in, the signs of erosion of relationships, of culture, of once-shared values; all of this is enough to raise our hearts to God with the plea that something be done, that it is time for something to be done.

It is not good to stay in such a place of discouragement, as a further reading of the prophet confirms. God answers him with a certain promise that must be known and held so closely that there is no doubt in the mind of the hearer.

"There is still a vision for the appointed time. . . . It will surely come; it will not delay." God is not indifferent to this suffering which weighs so heavily upon our hearts. God is not careless in responding to it, is not waiting to see what might happen.

Our present inability to comprehend is simply our present inability to comprehend. Instead, as Paul reminds Timothy, "join in suffering for the Gospel, relying on the power of God. . . . Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us."

Do the work you have been given to do, even if you cannot see what role those small things will play in the larger arena of God's plans.

All of our readings this Sunday remind us to live by faith, continuing to do the good works that are ours to do. Act with humility. Live in love. Practise self-discipline so as to remain faithful to that which is true.

But there is more. My work has taught me that when we enter deeply into the suffering of others we also enter deeply into their joys.

Our faith-filled lives are to be deeply satisfying as we journey together. The stories and the love of others enrich our lives beyond telling.

(Kathleen Giffin kgif@telus.net)