Wednesday December 11, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Advent
Reading (Isaiah 40:25-31) Gospel (St. Matthew 11:28-30)
In the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, we have a wonderful reminder about who God is. As the old saying says, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” and as we come to Mass day after day and when we pray day after day it is easy sometimes to forget who God is. Saint Teresa of Avila reminds us that when we pray the first thing we must always keep in mind is Who it is we are praying to, and secondly, who it is that is praying. “We must always remember that God,” she says, “is His Majesty, and we need to approach Him with the greatest reverence and awe. We need to have the greatest respect for the Lord.” And so Isaiah reminds us that “the Lord is the eternal God. He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. He does not grow faint or weary, and His knowledge is beyond scrutiny. He gives strength to the fainting; for the weak He makes vigor abound …” This is who the Lord is.
Sometimes we get into this overly familiar kind of relationship with the Lord where we just feel like we can come before Him and yell at Him, chastise Him, or do whatever. We need to be very, very careful. God is not one of us and we are not equal with Him. We want to have a familiarity with God – He is our Father – and yet it must be always with respect. It is the Lord who is inviting us to come to Him and it is a privilege on our part to be able to do so. We must understand it as such and we must always keep that in mind. Again, when we get so accustomed to it, we forget the privilege and we forget the awe that we ought to have in His Presence.
Now, Our Lord invites us in the Gospel reading to come to Him because we are the ones who are burdened, we are the ones who are laden with all of our troubles. He says, “Come to Me, you who are burdened, and you will find rest for your souls.” Isaiah tells us that God is going to give strength to the fainting, that He will give vigor to the weak, and when we look at ourselves as we struggle day after day – trying just to put everything together and keep it all together – we find ourselves getting faint and getting weak. We would naturally say, “Well, the Lord said, ‘They will run and not grow weary and they will walk and not grow faint’,” and we look at ourselves and say, “But I am getting weary and faint.”
What we need to learn to do is trust in Him, to turn to the Lord. That is exactly what Isaiah tells us. “They that hope in the Lord,” he says, “will renew their strength and they will soar as with eagle’s wings.” If we hope in ourselves, we are going to get faint, we are going to be in trouble. If we hope in the Lord, then we are going to be strengthened. We can take on His yoke, which is easy, and His burden, which is light; but if we try to do it our way, we are going to get crushed under the yoke that is on our shoulders because we are not walking with the Lord. Rather, the Lord may be near us, but we want to take it all on ourselves. And we have the attitude that basically is: “If I need You, I’ll let You know; otherwise, leave me alone.” That is not right. Nor is it right to say, “Well, I go to Mass in the morning,” or “I have a time of prayer, so the rest of the day is mine. You stay out of it because this is the time that is reserved for You – the rest of it is for me.” We are going to faint and grow weary because we are not walking with the Lord.
We want to be one with Jesus, not just simply to have Jesus as part of our lives, but to have Jesus as our life. That is what it needs to be, to be so perfectly united with Christ that we are transformed into Christ. Then nothing will be able to knock us down. We will not tire. Look at the saints and look at the things they were able to accomplish. It was not because of themselves; it was because of the Lord. There is nothing different about them than there is about us, on the natural level; the difference is that they united themselves to Christ and they did what He wanted them to do – not what they thought ought to be done. They allowed Him to be God and to tell them how to do things rather than trying to “play God” and tell Him how to do things. That is what we need to keep always in mind. He is God, we are not, and we are to do it His way, to take His yoke on our shoulders, to shoulder His burden. It is light and it is perfectly fitted to us. If, on the other hand, we try to determine what we are supposed to do all by ourselves, the yoke is not going to fit very well. It is going to hurt and we are going to get crushed underneath it. But if we do it with Him, then we will indeed run and not grow weary, we will walk and not grow faint, because we have come to Him at his invitation. We then will indeed find rest for our souls.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.