Tuesday July 31, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Exodus 33:7-11; 34:5b-9, 28) Gospel (St. Matthew 13:36-43)
In the first reading today we have two different parts of the reading. In other words, it would almost sound as if Moses received the second set of the Ten Commandments in the meeting tent. They skipped a large chunk in between: After mention of the meeting tent, Moses went back up the mountain for the forty days and forty nights where God, once again, showed him His mercy. Moses, this time, had to make the tablets of the Ten Commandments; rather than the first set, which God Himself had made. And so, on top of the mountain, God reveals Himself to Moses.
Remember that Moses had asked God, that if he found favor with Him, to allow him to see Him. God said that He would not allow Moses to see His face, but God revealed His name. In English, we would translate it as "Lord" because the Jewish people are very careful never to pronounce the holy name of God - even when it is pronounced in the right manner - just in case it might come out with even the slightest bit of irreverence. The Church has also maintained that and, generally speaking, we do not pronounce it either. We simply translate the Lord's name as "Lord" rather than as the name that He actually gave.
But when He reveals His name, He also adds on to it: "The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God," who is forgiving, and so on. How much hope we have if this is how He tells us what His name is: that He is merciful, that He is forgiving, that He is gracious, that He is slow to anger, and that He is quick to forgive. For those of us who fall into sin over and over again, as long as we keep trying, as long as we keep getting back up we have every reason to hope for mercy because God is merciful.
We fall into that trap sometimes of thinking that our sins are too big for God to forgive. They are not. The only thing that God cannot forgive is a person who does not want to be forgiven. God loves us so much that He gives us our free will and He does not violate it. So we have to desire and truly want to be forgiven. But in the soul of the person who is not sorry for their sins and does not want to be forgiven, that person cannot be forgiven. If you are truly sorry for your sin (even if you have committed the same sin a thousand times) and you intend to try to amend your life and you repent of that sin, God will forgive you. You can be guaranteed of that.
That is the beauty of what God has revealed, and that is what we have to work with. We know that God is merciful because He knows how weak we are. So we can be at peace not having to be afraid, worried, and concerned that God is going to condemn us; but not being arrogant on the other side, thinking, "I can do anything that I want and it is not going to matter."
We need to keep trying to grow in holiness. We need to try and grow in virtue. But in our weakness, when we fail, we know that we can come back to the Lord and that we can come to confession and our sins will indeed be forgiven because God is a gracious and merciful God. He is slow to anger.
When we look at our own selves we tend to be very harsh, we give ourselves very little leeway and we think that God is going to treat us the same way. But God has not wiped us off the face of the earth yet, so we see how merciful and how slow to anger He is when we look back at how many times we have sinned against Him. We just need to be trusting in God and we need to look at His Word and how He has revealed Himself. We need to rely on His Word and know Who He is. He is the Lord. He is merciful; He is gracious; and He is slow to anger.
Note: Father Altier does not write his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.