God's "NEON" Messages
by: Deacon Paul Rooney
The readings for this Sunday, October 6, 2013 (27th Ordinary "C") are absolutely fascinating for me. From the Old Testament we hear from Prophet Habakkuk (Hab 1:2-3; 2:2-4), and from the Gospel we hear from Jesus (Luke 17:5-6). Best of all, the Holy Spirit inspired the speakers to use quite vivid descriptions that would remain with us. Both readings spoke to me about the relationship between faith, poverty of spirit, perseverance, and hope. In my weekly Sunday scripture commentary on my website ( "Didja Know?" ), I spoke about what we might call these "bottom-line attitudes" that an Intentional Disciple of Christ must have.
Look closely at what God tells the prophet Habakkuk: "Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it." Now, if you exercise by means of jogging, or perhaps the more common way of vigorous daily walking, you can appreciate what the Prophet is saying here. God wants his message known so that everyone can see it. It had to be on a very large tablet, because that would be the only way a runner or speed-walker passing by could have time to view it and understand it – which is why I call it a "neon" poster message. (Maybe an image of a strobe light would be more engaging.) And what is the message on that large poster? It is the good news that salvation is coming; to wait for it patiently; to know that it has an appointed time and until then you must live in faith. In fact, that is the prophet's conclusion: God's holy ones, the ones in right relationship with Him, live by their faith! Neon tubes are luminous - - they are "full of light." God's word is precisely that luminous light, and more!
Through the grace of God, I am able to help a few folks as spiritual director (I prefer the more accurate term, "co-discerner"). I know, as they all know, that faith is challenged many times during "dry" prayer periods, or times when we do not have the desire to pray. That same challenge to our faith is also an opportunity for grace, because if we persevere despite these dark or dry times, then our faith grows much stronger. That faith is a priceless gift. It is the recognition that God is present, very luminous, even in our darkest moments.
In Luke's gospel today, Jesus teaches us that faith can move mulberry trees (Luke 17:5-6) and even mountains (Matthew 17:20). This is powerful "neon poster" imagery! How does one really move mountains? I remember a former Trappist (James Finley) writing somewhere about working in a pig barn. His job was to shovel manure. But it seemed to take forever; so he learned to "shovel manure with integrity" - - he recognized that you can't move it all at once; you can only do one shovel full at a time. Persevering in the task before you is what gets you to your objective.
Faith is like that! We must trust in the Lord's message, and live accordingly. When life gets dark, even with persecution or significant illness, remember the goal, the objective: eternal salvation and life with God forever! And then live life one day at a time, even one hour at a time, finding God in the "now" moment. It is a "jogger's moment" – as we jog through life, we need to really "see" God's neon message of hope: he has redeemed us, he has saved us; now all we need to do is persevere in our hope, to live by faith, trusting entirely on the Lord!
- Deacon Paul Rooney
Photo credit: http://www.uskidsmags.com/blog/2011/06/08/so-you-wanna-get-dirty-do-ya/