Tuesday June 25, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Kings 19:9b-11, 14-21, 31-35a, 36)
Gospel (St. Matthew 7:6, 12-14)
Our Lord tells us today in the Gospel, in that passage we all know so well, that the road that leads to destruction is broad - it is smooth and many there are who are on it; the path that leads to life is narrow - it is rough and there are very few who are on it. We have an idea in the first reading of what that road is going to look like. We have Hezekiah (who was only one of the three kings of Israel who were decent at all) and he is going to be surrounded by Sennacherib, who had destroyed every other kingdom he had come against - literally, completely destroyed them: he put all the people to death and destroyed every building and everything that was there. Now he was coming up against Jerusalem, and he had all of the army and all of the embattlements, everything that they had.
Under normal circumstances, if you think of the way that we might react to something like this, we would be in fear; we would be kind of chaotic; we would be running around trying to put things together and get things in order and having a little fit over what it is we are going to do, and so on. Hezekiah, on the other hand, takes the narrow road. He goes directly to the temple of the Lord; he lays out the letter before the Lord and prays. He trusts in the Lord. Again, we see where the difficulty in trust comes. When you know fully well that your city is about to be surrounded by somebody who has destroyed every city he has come against and you have got charge of the people, you are going to be killed if the same pattern follows. Yet what he did was not to panic, it was not to try to take matters into his own hands, but it was to go before the Lord and to trust Him, even when it seemed that it was hopeless, when it seemed foolish to try to trust because what was there to trust in?
But Hezekiah made it very clear, he said, "The kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and cast their gods into the fire; they destroyed them because they were not gods, but the work of human hands, wood and stone. But You alone are the living God. You alone are the One who created the heavens and the earth." We know that. We know that God is the only One, except when things get difficult we tend to forget about Him. We try to do it ourselves or we wander from God or we wonder why God allows these things or whatever goes through our minds. We see our infidelity. We see where, when the road gets rough, we tend to step off of it or we look for that wide and smooth and easy path. We say, "Well, the people walking that way sure have it a whole lot easier." In this life, that is true - but not in the next.
We need to stay on that rough and narrow path. We know that the way that leads to life is narrow; the Lord has made it very clear. And we need to allow Him to define what those measurements are going to be rather than trying to tell Him what they ought to be. If we try to tell Him it is too narrow, that is not going to work because He tells us it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. That's how narrow the opening is, and so it is for God to define and for us simply to trust, to pray, and to be obedient.
None of those things are easy for us. It takes an awful lot of grace and a lot of cooperation on our part to be willing to do this and to be able to do it. It has to come from the Lord, but our part is to trust - no matter what the circumstances, no matter how bad it seems, no matter how impossible it appears. We hear that when Sennacherib came up and surrounded Jerusalem, he had them sieged and actually taunted them and said, "Hezekiah and Jerusalem are like a bird in a cage." He had them dead to rights. And that night the Lord sent His angel through the Assyrian camp and 185,000 men died in one night. It is not impossible for the Lord. But He is going to test us; He is going to try us; He is going to see if we remain faithful even when things seem impossible. That is the rough and narrow road. That is the constricted opening. Our task is to trust and let God lead us, these very rich people, through the eye of a needle because for man it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.