Tuesday January 15, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week on Ordinary Time
Reading I (1 Samuel 1:9-20) Gospel (St. Mark 1:21b-28)
In the first reading today, we hear about Hannah going to the temple of the Lord and pouring out her heart to the Lord, asking the Lord for the favor of being remembered so that she would be able to bear a child. And the Lord heard her prayer. What we see in this is a very common pattern of how the Lord works. Because He was going to raise up her son Samuel to do great things for Israel, it was then that He allowed the mother to suffer greatly before she was able to conceive. Even though the other wife of Elkanah had a number of children and there was this rivalry and all the difficulties between the two women, all the suffering that Hannah had to endure was to prepare her so that she would be able to make the offering to the Lord that was going to be required; it was to lay the foundation so that her heart would be ready.
So, too, in our own lives, we always have to keep in mind that the Lord is going to allow certain struggles and difficulties if we are going to be able to grow in holiness. As we ask the Lord for certain things in prayer, they come with a price. It is not that the Lord wants to exact something out of us; that is not what it is all about. But rather, if [we] are desiring the conversion of this individual (or whatever it may be that we are asking for), He gives to us the privilege of being able to share in the suffering that will be required to bring about the answer to that prayer. And what most of us do is either we stop praying because we are afraid of the suffering or, when the suffering comes, we recoil and we reject whatever it is that the Lord is offering; consequently, the prayer oftentimes does not get answered because we were unwilling to do our part.
We need to have generosity of heart. Now we see with Hannah that it came only through her suffering - the heart was opened by that. So, too, it will be with us. Yet, in the midst of that, she needed to have the faith. Notice that she came into the temple; she was downcast; she was miserable; she poured out her prayer before the Lord and she went away happy. She trusted that the Lord was going to fulfill the prayer that she had made.
We have every reason to trust. In the Gospel reading, we see Our Lord teaching with authority in a way that kept the people spellbound. He spoke and the demons obeyed. He spoke and everything was created. We have a God who is all-powerful. We know that He is also all-loving, that He hears our prayers, and that He desires for us only what is the best. It is not that He will always do whatever it is that we ask of Him because if it will not be the best, then He is not always going to do it. But we do know that He is always going to provide for us.
What we need to do is have that spirit of faith, that same spirit of faith that Hannah had. We need to present ourselves before the Lord, open our hearts to Him, and pour out to Him our petitions. We need to remember also the adoration and the thanksgiving and the contrition that we need to offer Him, but we can offer to Him the petitions of our hearts. We can pour them out before Him with confidence, with that faith that Hannah had, and walk away no longer downcast but joyful, knowing that everything we have asked for has been heard and that the Lord will indeed answer our prayers because He is not just some false god, nor is He like us: somebody who is imperfect or fickle. He is perfect. He is all-powerful. His word has authority and indeed everything that He speaks, everything that He teaches, is taught with a spirit of authority, with the absolute authority of God. If we will put our trust in that authority, if we will obey when He speaks, we will be able to see the work of God in our lives, as He will do incredible things for each of us.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.