Tuesday September 30, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Zechariah 8:20-23) Gospel (St. Luke 9:51-56)
In the first reading, the prophet Zechariah tells us that the day will come when people from every nation, speaking different languages, will take hold of the garment of a Jew and say, “Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.” Then, at the same time, what we see in the Gospel reading is that Jesus prepares to enter into this village of Samaritan people and they refuse to allow Him in. It is the way things worked throughout Our Lord’s life. The prostitutes and the tax collectors believed in the Lord, but the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the chief priests and all the religious people of Jerusalem did not. They refused to accept that the Lord was God, that He is the promised One, the Messiah.
And so we see this same pattern there that can happen to any one of us. It is the pride when we think we know how it is supposed to be, but we do not. In the beginning of the Gospel reading it tells us that when the days for Jesus to be taken up were fulfilled that He turned His face resolutely toward Jerusalem. In Greek, there is a very important word there that they translated as “taken up”, and it is simply exodus – “When the time for His exodus came…” So this is something that hearkens all the way back to the Book of Exodus and it calls to mind all of the events of the Jewish people from the ancient times. This also happened in a way that people could not accept, that they did not understand. Even the Jewish people themselves, by the end of the ten plagues, were begging Moses to leave them alone: “It would be better for us if we would stay here and be slaves of these people rather than to endure all of these other difficulties.” They did not even recognize that God was with them. And so all the things that hearken back that we too will fall into, for example, murmuring against the Lord and against His anointed, as many people seem to do today: “What’s wrong with this Pope? Why doesn’t he just retire? He doesn’t know what’s going on. He’s not with it. He’s getting sick and old.” On and on and on they go, murmur, murmur, murmur, just like the people of the exodus of old. At the same time, God will lead His people out into the desert and there He will speak to their hearts, if they are willing to go and if they are willing to listen. But all too often, just like the Jewish people of old, we do not want anything to do with the idea because we think we have a better idea. Are we not refusing the Lord? Are we not failing to accept Him and the way that He is wanting to do things?
If it is supposed to be that each person will take a Jew by the hem of his garment and want to go with him, why is it that when Jesus turns His face to Jerusalem, because He is going to His Passion, that we do not want to take the hem of His garment and say, “We have heard that God is with You; let us go with You”? When it comes to these sorts of things where we know where the truth is and we know where freedom is going to be found, why do we walk the other way? Why do we refuse to take up the Cross and go with the Lord? Why do we murmur against Him? Why do we not trust? Even if we take this ultimate Jew by the garment, oftentimes it is more like the woman with the hemorrhage who reached out and touched the hem of His garment so that she would be healed; we want it for us, not necessarily for Him. We want it according to our own way. We want to tell God how it is supposed to happen. It is not going to work.
We know that God is with us. And we know there is only one way that we are going to be able to find Him, because the only way is Jesus Christ and He is God. Jesus has shown us the way. He Himself is that Way. And if we want anything to do with God – truly, that is, with God, not just this generic belief that we can make up our own religion by saying, “Well, I believe in God,” so what? – but rather it is to say, “Jesus Christ is God, and I need to be with Him. That means I have to take Him by the hem of the garment and I need to let Him lead. I need to go where He goes and I need to go wherever He leads me.” Jesus determined to set His face resolutely toward Jerusalem even though He knew exactly what that meant. That is precisely what we need to do. We need to set our face resolutely toward Heaven, the New Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem, and we need to walk along that path. We know that many people are going to reject us. We see Our Lord’s response. He did not condemn them; He just moved on to the next village. And so He tells us we have to pray for our persecutors and all our enemies. We have to do it His way. That is the only way that is going to lead us to eternal life. So we have the fulfillment of this prophecy from Zechariah if we are willing to take Jesus Christ, this Jew among Jews, by the hem of the garment and beg Him, “Let us go with You, because we have heard that God is with You.”
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.