Sunday, October 06, 2013

No Ordinary Battery Lasts Like It

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Sisters and brothers, do any of you still remember the Duracell Bunny? Those who do will know that I’m referring to that series of TV commercials for Duracell batteries. Which continued to air perhaps right into the ninety nineties. You can probably find some of them on YouTube. If you’re interested. As you may recall, each of these commercials features the exploits of an electrical toy bunny.

In an early version of the commercial, the action begins with the camera focused on a whole bunch of bunnies. Each one vigorously beating a drum. But then, as time goes on, one by one, each of the bunnies gradually starts slowing down. Until, finally, all have come to a halt. Have stopped beating their respective drums. All, that is, except one. Even though the other bunnies have run out of steam, one among them continues to beat its drum with the same enthusiasm as when it started. Even though all others have given up for sheer exhaustion, one bunny still appears as cheerfully energetic as ever. At this point, the camera shifts its focus to give us a close-up of the single remaining active bunny. Only to reveal the secret to its remarkable endurance. The key to its impressive staying power. Duracell, no ordinary battery looks like it or lasts like it.

Extraordinary power that keeps you going, even when all others have run out of steam. This too, sisters and brothers, is what we find in our readings today. The first reading is set in a very dark time in the history of the people of Judah. A new political power is rising. The kingdom of Babylon is flexing its military muscle. Imposing its might on smaller weaker kingdoms. Bullying them into submission. It won’t be long before Judah is overcome as well. Faced with impending doom, the prophet Habakkuk’s trust in God appears to waver. In his distress, he asks two very relevant, very poignant, questions: How long am I to cry for help and you will not listen? Why do you see such tyranny and will not save? ... How long? And Why? Perhaps, sisters and brothers, more likely than not, we too have asked these questions of God before. Especially during dark moments in our own lives. When we have felt our energy starting to wane. Our trust in God beginning to wear thin. Why, Lord? … How long?

But consider God’s response. Notice how God doesn’t answer the questions directly. God doesn’t indicate how long or why. Instead God makes a sharp distinction between two kinds of people. Each one relying on a particular kind of power. See how he flags, he whose soul is not at rights, God says. But the upright man will live by his faithfulness. When times are dark, there are those who easily give up hope. Those who run out of steam more quickly. Much like the bunnies powered by ordinary batteries in the commercial. These people give up, because their souls are not at rights. They are powered by ordinary motivations and energies. Motivations like self-interest and self-promotion, for example. Energies rooted not in God, but in themselves. In their own plans and resources. When the going gets tough, these people very soon find their energy flagging.

In contrast, it is the upright person who remains steadfastly faithful. Who keeps trusting in God. Who continues to insist on living a God-centred life. Even when it seems like there is no good practical reason to do so. Even when everyone else has already given up worshipping the one true God. Has turned instead to other lesser gods. False gods. Like money. Or fame. Not unlike the Duracell bunny beating its drum, the upright person is able to keep bearing witness to God. All because s/he is running on an extraordinary battery. Tapping into an awesome power. Faith in God. No ordinary battery lasts like it.

But that’s not all. Our readings for today actually go beyond the Duracell commercial. And in at least two ways. The commercial only compares different kinds of power. The ordinary with the extraordinary. The normal carbon cell with Duracell. Our readings go further. They tell us how this extraordinary power–this faith in God–works. They also show us what we can do to tap into it. In the first reading, God tells Habakkuk about a new vision that the prophet is supposed to write down. A new promise, for the fulfilment of which the prophet is supposed to wait patiently. Even if it comes slowly, wait, God says, for come it will, without fail.

This attitude of patient waiting–an attitude rooted in faithfulness to God–is also something that Jesus encourages his disciples to cultivate in the gospel. After speaking about the awesome power of faith–a tiny amount of which is potent enough even to transplant a mulberry tree from the land into the sea–Jesus goes on to describe the new attitude that characterises those who have such faith. Instead of acting like wealthy patrons in a classy restaurant. Who expect to have their every need and demand satisfied without the slightest delay. The true disciples of Christ see themselves as servants, humbly waiting upon their God. Trusting that their Master will feed them in due time. Feed them not just with food for their bellies. But also with answers to the questions that arise in their hearts. Questions often posed by the darkness of life. Questions like Why? And How long?

This then, sisters and brothers, is how the power of faith works. By giving us a new vision. By helping us cultivate a new attitude. A vision and an attitude of selfless service. Of God-centred devotion. But how do we tap into this power? Quite unlike Duracell batteries, this is not something that we can obtain on our own. Not something we can buy from the neighbourhood 7-Eleven. Rather, this power is a gift from God that we need humbly to receive and to nurture. The same gift that St. Paul is telling Timothy about in the second reading. I am reminding you to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you.

This precious gift that Timothy received–this spirit of power and love and self-control–has also already been given to us at our Baptism. And we tap into this gift–we fan it into flame–by keeping our attention fixed, above all, on the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The same faith and love that we are celebrating in this Eucharist. For ultimately, it is Jesus himself who is the true Vision of God. It is He who teaches us, by example, the new Attitude of service. He who came to serve and not to be served. To give his life as a ransom for many. For you. For me. For all. It is only to the extent that we allow ourselves truly to receive of this love. Deeply to be moved by this service. That we will then be able continually to access the awesome power of this faith. Even and especially in the midst of darkness.

Sisters and brothers, it’s very difficult to deny that we live in a dark world. A world dominated no longer by the ancient power of Babylon. But by a modern global capitalistic economy gone wild. A world where hundreds of African migrants willingly cram themselves into an overcrowded boat. In search of a better future in Europe. Only to end up being lost at sea. In a world such as this, it remains an urgent challenge for us Christians to continue beating the drum of faith. To continue bearing witness to the Gospel of Christ. The Good News of justice and of peace. A witness we can continue to bear only by first tapping into the faith and love that is in Christ Jesus. For there is no ordinary power that lasts like it.

Sisters and brothers, how are you being called to keep beating the drum of faith? What battery are you running on today?

1 comment:

  1. O Lord, only You can sustain us and grant us with the Duracell battery to go on living life fully and with much zest and enthusiasm.

    Grant us the grace to remain open to You always and to dare to trust you more so that we can always receive Your Love, Your Joy and Your Peace.

    Keep us close to you always and allow us to be the solitaire rabbit that keeps on beating its drums when all others have failed.

    You Alone, O Lord are Our Source of Life - let us always remain CONNECTED IN YOU.


    Sih Ying
    6 October 2013


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