Forget Your Fear and Give Everything Over to Him
April 21, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Monday within the Octave of Easter
Reading (Acts 2:14, 22-33) Gospel (St. Matthew 28:8-15)
In the Gospel reading today, we see both irony and tragedy: the irony of placing a guard at a dead man’s tomb to guard him so that he does not come back to life, to guard him so that he cannot get out of the tomb. This is the most foolish thing that one has ever heard, which tells you that the chief priests who asked that Pilate would put this guard there clearly had knowledge of the Resurrection (in a generic sort of way, at least) and believed (to some degree) that it was going to happen. And then when it did happen, that is where the tragedy comes in: They refused still to believe. Their hearts were completely hardened against the Lord.
To think that these were the very people who were supposed to point out the Lord when He was to come! And it is not that they did not know. As we have talked about many times, they knew exactly the time. They knew the prophecy of Jeremiah; they knew the time the Messiah was supposed to come. They also knew from thirty-three years earlier that Herod had called the chief priests and the scribes together and asked where the Messiah was going to be born because the Wise Men had come to Jerusalem. So it is not like they were without knowledge. They knew what was going on.
But the problem is that they were afraid. They were afraid to do what God wanted to be done because they could not conceive of how this was going to look. “After all, if we proclaim this man to be the Messiah, what are the Romans going to do to our city? What are they going to do to our temple? What’s going to happen to our religion? What’s going to happen to my job??” Now these are basic legitimate things that they are going to wonder about. Unfortunately, it is not all that much different from us. Maybe we do not ask those particular questions, but similar ones. We are afraid to do God’s Will because in our limited human resources we cannot see how it is going to work. And we certainly cannot imagine it is going to work well!
The sad thing, when you think about all the things they were concerned about, is that within forty years after this happened Jerusalem was destroyed, the temple was destroyed, the priesthood was destroyed – all of the things they were worried about came to pass because they did not do God’s Will. The point we need to learn is that these chief priests who were afraid because of what might happen if they put faith in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, all of the things they feared came to pass precisely because they did not put faith in Jesus Christ. They did not trust God and they did not believe.
We have the knowledge of Who Jesus is and what it is that He has done, and we know what He does in our lives as well if we will get out of the way and let Him work. We need to learn to trust. We need to believe in the promises that He has made. We need to trust Him. We need to be like the apostles after Pentecost because unfortunately too many of us are like the apostles before Pentecost. There is a belief in Jesus, even a belief in His Resurrection, and then we lock it all up in an upper room and we will not tell anybody about it. And we certainly do not want to live it lest anybody figure out that we are Christian and then they might not like us very well! Praise God if that happens. When the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles, they went out in public and they preached Jesus Christ. If that meant they would get thrown into prison, if it meant they got flogged, it did not matter to them; all that mattered was doing the Will of God.
And so we see that, yes, it will cost us if we do the Will of God. We know that, and that is where our fear comes in. But at the same time, we need to learn the lesson that the chief priests had to learn: If we do not do the Will of God, the very things we are afraid of are going to come to pass because we are trying to control it – and it does not work very well when we try to play God. So we simply need to learn to trust, to give everything over to God, and to allow Him to do it His way. Not only will things work out in a way that we could never conceive in our imagination, but they will work out perfectly. We simply need to trust that. He will not show it to us beforehand – we have enough examples of it – He is going to ask for an act of faith. We simply need to trust and move forward and know that God will work out everything in the way that is the best.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.