Thursday March 4, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week of Lent
Reading (Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25) Gospel (St. Matthew 7:7-12)
We hear Our Lord telling us that if we know how to give good things to our children, how much more will our heavenly Father give good things to us, and then we look at the first reading and we see that God has allowed the people of Israel to be ordered to be extinguished from the face of the earth, to be persecuted. Then we stop and ask ourselves, “If this is the case, how can we suggest that God is going to give us all these good things?” When we look at the life of Jesus, we see the exact same thing and one could ask the same question. I suppose there is not anyone here who cannot say, “All I have to do is look at my own life and see that it is not always filled with good things, in the worldly sense of that.” So, once again, how is it that we can say that God will give us all of these good things?
What God will give us is always what is the very best. We think what God ought to do is give us the things that we think are good. But, as parents, you know that the things your children think are good, you do not always think are so good. Some of the things will be very bad for them, in fact; but everyone else is doing it, so they think that they ought to do it too. Some of the things are just plain sinful. Some of them are going to be very harmful to them in one form or another, and as a parent you will say “no”. Also, any parent knows that their kids do not like to do certain things that parents know are good for them. All you have to do is think of young kids and teenage kids, when you ask them to clean their room, when you ask them to get out of bed, when you ask them to do certain chores around the house, you know fully well what their response is – it is not usually jumping up and down with joy and saying, “Yes! I know that this is really the best for me.” They think you do not like them. They think there is something wrong and why is it that you hate them so badly that you are making them do these horrible things, when in fact you are doing it because you know it is the best.
The same is true with God. He is our Father Who loves us. Which one of us would ever go to prayer and say, “Lord, I know that what I need is to grow in virtue, and the only way that’s going to happen is if I suffer. So please give that to me so that I can grow.” That is not the way most of us are going to pray. We are not going to ask for the things that we find to be difficult. We might realize that we need to grow in virtue, so we will actually ask God for the virtue – assuming that He is going to infuse it right into our soul! That usually does not happen either. And so we have to see the way that God works.
When we look, for instance, at what happened to the Jewish people at the time of Esther and what has happened to them over the course of history in all of the difficult things, we have to understand that God brings good out of the evil. God allows these awful things, sometimes because the people were disobedient to God (and not in small matters, either), sometimes He allows it to remind them that He is God and they are not, sometimes He allows it for purification purposes, and so on. When we look at the Cross of Our Lord, all of us know that while this was the most horrendous thing ever to happen on a human level, it is the greatest act of love that humanity has ever known. And why did God allow it to happen? Because we needed to know how much God loves us. So He allowed that to happen because it was the best thing that could have happened. It does not look very good to us, but when we stop and look at what was necessary for the salvation of our souls, for the forgiveness of our sins, what was necessary because of the hardness of our own hearts – how much He had to suffer just so that we would believe that maybe, maybe he actually loves us a little bit (What does He have to do to prove it?) – that is the thing we have to see.
So when He allows bad things to happen to us (at least what we think are bad things), we have to realize that He is doing this for a greater reason. We do not always understand what that reason is going to be; sometimes we are completely clueless until after it is all over and we can look back to see what good He has brought out of it. If you are like most people, you could actually write a book as to all of the good that God brings out of the things that are the worst in your life, because it is not just one thing or two, but He works on many things at one time through some of the difficult things in our lives.
For us, the Lord tells us what is necessary is that we keep going back to prayer – asking, seeking, knocking – because, above all, the greatest good that is going to come out of the suffering and the hardships of life is that we recognize we are not in control, that we recognize we are dependent on God, and that we have to keep turning to Him and seeking His Will and uniting ourselves with Him. That is what God would seek and desire from us and for us. We know that sometimes when things are difficult we walk away from God, we turn away from Him. Rather than knocking and seeking, we tend to scream and yell and holler and stomp our feet and call God names and get angry and go out and do sinful things just to show Him. What good does it do us? Every time we try to be in control, we prove to ourselves that we are not. And so we simply need to trust, put it in God’s hands, continue to pray, seek union with Him, and know that God – Who knows what we need before we even ask Him – will not give us good things, but only the best things.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.