Thursday October 30, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Romans 8:31b-39) Gospel (St. Luke 13:31-35)
Our Lord in the Gospel today tells us in reply to Herod’s wanting to kill Him, He says, “Today and tomorrow I cast out demons and I perform healings, and on the third day I accomplish My purpose.” Of course, what He is talking about is not merely the work that He is doing among the people but the purpose for which He is going to Jerusalem: that going to the Cross He destroys the power of Satan, He heals what has been affected by sin in our lives, and on the third day He rises from the dead to destroy death so that we could have life.
It is exactly this point that Saint Paul is looking at when he asks the simple question, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” He says, “Is it God, Who has handed over His Son for us?” Certainly, if God has given us His own Son to die for us God is not going to be against us. “Is Christ going to be against us,” he said, “He Who died for us, rather, even rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of the Father where He intercedes for us? Is He going to be against us?” Obviously not. The point Saint Paul is making is that there is absolutely nothing in the created world other than our own free will that can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.
Now we all know people who have wandered away from the Lord for whatever reason; most are pretty lame excuses: “God allows me to suffer like this” or “God allowed my child to die” or “God allowed this bad thing to happen, therefore, I’m not going to be with Him anymore. If that’s what God does then forget it.” We all know people who have done that or perhaps some of us have even fallen into that trap before. But the reality of the matter is that it was not that thing, whatever it is, that separated us from the love of God; it was not the Lord in allowing these things to happen that separated us from Him – it was our free will. It was the fact that our love and our faith were not strong enough.
And so, in allowing these things to happen, God helps us to see just how weak we really are because when the time would come when our own lives would be required of us chances are that if our faith were so weak we would fall away from God at some tragedy, whatever it may be. What are we going to do when we face the eternal question? What are we going to do when it is life and death? What are we going to do when we have to ask the question of ourselves: “Do I really, truly, absolutely, without any doubt believe that God exists and that heaven exists and that I am going forward in just a couple of minutes for judgment?” What are we going to do then, when we cannot look at something unfortunate that happened and remain faithful? What is going to happen at that point is we are going to wander away from God.
So God in His mercy allows some unfortunate things to happen and we struggle with our faith. It tries us to the very depths of our being. And when we can come through to the other side then when we have to face the next trial we have the confidence, the confidence in God, the confidence in the faith that He has strengthened within us, and the confidence to be able to say, “I believe. I know that the Lord is there. Yes, He allowed this but He is the One Who gives me the grace and the strength to be able to work through this and to be able to actually grow through all of this.”
Whether it is Satan himself or any of his minions or any person alive in this world or anything at all, there is absolutely nothing which in and of itself can separate us from the love of God – nothing – which also means, as we know, that anyone who is separated from the love of God is separated because they themselves have chosen to be separated from God. No one is in hell because someone else made them go there. No one is in the state of mortal sin because someone else did it to them. They are in that state because of a choice that they themselves have made. And even in that choice God continues to love them; it is they who have failed to love God. But if they will cooperate, confess their sins, and be truly repentant, they can be restored to that state of grace, to friendship with God. And, once again, nothing will be able to separate them from that love of God in Jesus Christ except their own free will. So there is no one else that we can blame, no one else we can point a finger to. We can look at all the circumstances, all the temptations, all the difficulties, all the tragedies, whatever it may be, but there is absolutely nothing in the created world or in the uncreated world (which means only God Himself because only He is uncreated) that can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.
God has given us everything, and He will continue to give us everything. If we will look to Him and not to our own selves and not to our own strength and not to trying to find our own answers but look to Him, we can be guaranteed that we will not be separated from the love of God because nothing can stand between God and us. As long as we are looking to Him nothing can come between us. That is the most wonderful guarantee in the world because if we can remain faithful, if we do not separate ourselves, then we are guaranteed heaven because it is our choice and our choice only that either unites us to God or separates us from Him. So what can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ? Absolutely nothing other than our own choice. That is why we must constantly choose God, day after day, hour after hour, to look to Him and not to our own strength because if we learn to do this – to be faithful to Him and to keep our hearts focused on Him – as I mentioned, the guarantee is extraordinary; it is nothing less than eternal life, it is nothing less than God Himself, because we have chosen to unite ourselves with Him and that union will remain forever.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.