Habakkuk was one of a handful of prophets who wrote during the very troubled years in Israel that led up to the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 587BC. During these last few years, one of the most troubling things to the few like Habakkuk must have been that it was perfectly obvious that that was what going to happen.
The Israeli state was going to come to an end, and there was nothing that those who cared could do about it. So, Habakkuk’s prophecy is really a cry of frustration. How Long O Lord? Why don’t you listen? Why do you let this go on? Then, once it has been made clear to him that human strengths, human skills will be of no use at all, Habakkuk does what believers have always done at such a moment. He confronts his own frustration, challenges his own fears with the only faculty he has left, faith.
That is a powerful prophecy. Faith works. It eases burdens, overcomes challenges, it gives life. Faith works, and often enough, it is really the only thing that does.
It is too easy for us to over-intellectualise faith, to think of it as simply the acceptance of a truth we don’t reasonably grasp. In scripture, the one who has faith is the one who is faithful, who keeps trying, who never quits.
In the Gospel, Christ says that if you love faith, if you are faithful, you will keep at it till you move that mountain through sheer perseverance. Faith changes nothing outside of us. It changes everything inside of us.
Put very simply, a believer doesn’t make blueprints. A believer doesn’t presume to decide for God what should happen, when it should happen, and how it should feel. Rather, a believer is like the servant who simply does what he/she is expected, appointed to do, and says of it nothing more than, “This is the way it should be. There is a rightness to what is happening, even if it is not very clearly to my benefit.”
The call of faith that Christ gives to us in these readings this day is not a promise of a life made free of challenges, obstacles, and burdens by the power of God. It is not a promise of a life that always makes sense, that it is always marked by clear purpose and satisfaction. Rather, it is a call to keep at it, even when there is mystery, even when life does not make sense.
It is a promise that precisely in that perseverance is the power of God. The power of God, after all, doesn’t always have to feel divine in order to be so.