Friday July 12, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Hosea 14:2-10) Gospel (St. Matthew 10:16-23)
Our Lord makes very clear to us exactly the way things will be if we are going to be His followers. He tells us that He is sending us like sheep in the midst of wolves - not a particularly pleasant thing for the little sheep, to be out there in the midst of the wolves that want to devour him! Yet at the same time, we are not alone. The Lord makes it very clear that we have the Spirit of our heavenly Father with us. And we know that the Lord is with us because He promised that He would never abandon us.
When we look around the world today and we see things continually getting worse, we can understand exactly how it would be if we are going to be like sheep in the midst of wolves. The Lord tells us that we have to be " as shrewd as serpents and as simple as doves". Now, one of the things we need to be very careful of is that trying to be as shrewd as serpents does not mean becoming serpents; it does not mean becoming a wolf so that we do not get devoured. It is one thing to try to disguise yourself a little bit while maintaining the fact that you are a sheep, but if you decide that it would be better to become a wolf because then you are not going to be devoured, then you are no longer the sheep that the Lord has called you to be. It does not require any trust in the Lord if you become a wolf in the midst of wolves, because the wolf is not going to devour another wolf; but it requires great trust in the Lord if we are going to be the sheep out in the midst of wolves. It is a rather uncomfortable place to be for the sheep, unless the sheep is trusting in its shepherd, that the shepherd will protect the sheep.
Of course, we are immediately going to come out with the argument that Our Lord told us we are going to be hated by all, we will be handed over to the courts, we will be flogged in the synagogues, some of us are even going to be put to death, so where is the Shepherd protecting the sheep? Once again, the Lord has promised that when that time comes the Holy Spirit is the One who will speak in us and through us. We are not going to be abandoned. And we need to know, as we look back over the last 2,000 years, that some of the greatest saints we celebrate are celebrated as martyrs. We can ask ourselves, "Did the Lord abandon them in the time of their death?" The answer is "no".
The Lord told us right here in this Gospel reading that we are going to be led before governors and kings as witnesses before them and the pagans. Remember that in Greek the word "witness" is martyria - martyr. We are going to be martyrs before them and before the pagans. Well, look around -there is no difference between the judges and the pagans these days; they are one and the same. Some are going to have to give witness to the Lord before them, which means a witness of our lives. This is something we have to look at within ourselves and ask if we are serious enough about our faith to put our lives on the line for Him. Is that something we are willing to do? Not that it will necessarily be required of us as individuals, but there will be some. But are we willing? That is the real question each one of us needs to ask: Am I willing to be a martyr for Jesus Christ? Do I love the Lord enough that I am willing to die for Him? Do I love Him enough that I am even willing to stand up and be counted among His followers in the midst of a situation that may be very uncomfortable? Whether they put me to death or not is beside the point. Do I wimp out when it comes to standing up for my faith when everybody else would ridicule it, when nobody else would be supportive? Do I clam up and say nothing? Or do I even get worse than that and become just like everybody else because I want to fit in, so I wind up denying the Lord in order to fit in and be liked?
We need to look at what Our Lord requires of us: we are going to need to be witnesses; we are going to need to put everything on the line for Him, just as He has put it all on the line for us. Are we willing to do that? He has never abandoned His martyrs and He never will. The Shepherd will never abandon His sheep. If we are willing to be sheep in the midst of wolves, if we are willing to continue being sheep and looking like sheep and acting like sheep even though the wolves want to devour us, and we are going to do that because we trust that our Shepherd is going to protect us, then we have nothing to fear. That is the simplicity of the dove: trusting solely in the Lord and knowing that we will never be abandoned. That is the kind of trust He wants from each one of us. And the kind of faith He wants is the faith that is willing to be martyred. The shrewdness is to have such confidence in the Holy Spirit that He will get us through whatever it is we need to get through. He will give to us the words and the wisdom which our adversaries can neither contradict nor take exception to.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.