He Will Never Abandon Us
April 7, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Wednesday of Holy Week
Reading (Isaiah 50:4-9a) Gospel (St. Matthew 26:14-25)
In the first reading today, we hear from the prophet Isaiah. This is the third of the Suffering Servant Songs from chapter 50 of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, and we see in this again more of what Our Lord was going to have to endure. That is, He did not rebel and did not turn back; He gave His back to those who beat Him and His cheeks to those who plucked His beard; His face He did not shield from buffets or spitting and all of the indignities that were heaped upon the Lord. But then it says, The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced. So even though the way He was treated was disgraceful, even though what they tried to do was to shame Him in every way they possibly could, the reality was that He was not disgraced. From a merely human point of view, it might appear that He was; but, once again, the reality is entirely different.
Now from the merely human point of view, we would look at it and say, “But why did God allow this to happen? After all, if the prophet, speaking prophetically about what was going to be coming, talked about the fact that He will not be put to shame, and knowing that God is right there with Him – See, the Lord God is my help; who will prove me wrong? – if God is His help, if He is not going to be put to shame, if He is not disgraced, then where was the help?” The fact of the matter is for each one of us, God was His help. Of course, He is God at the same time, but God is His help in the sense that God gave Him the strength and the grace to do what He did. You see, as we look at it merely from a personal point of view, we would usually think of the idea that God should have freed Him from this. Or if we were in this situation, we would get angry and say, “Why didn’t God bail me out? I was trusting in Him and He didn’t do what He was supposed to do!” But, in fact, it is oftentimes just the opposite of what we think it ought to be.
In this case, each one of us for all eternity will be grateful that He did not bail out, that He did not turn His back or His face, that He remained faithful to the Lord, and that the grace of God was there. In fact, each one of us would have to be able to acknowledge that even though they treated Him disgracefully and shamefully, it is anything but the fact that He is disgraced or put to shame. Anyone whose heart is moved as they pray the Stations of the Cross, as they meditate upon the sufferings of Our Lord, anyone who looks upon Him bloody and wounded and torn to pieces because of our sinfulness and has the heart moved with compassion, recognizes not disgrace, not shame, but love and beauty. And for anyone, then, with a love for Christ, anyone who looks upon Him with any sense of faith, can see that while what we as human beings have tried to do was to disgrace Him and to shame Him, He has not been put to shame and He is not disgraced because He did exactly what God wanted Him to do. And He has put into our hearts the grace to be able to see that.
Now the hard part for each one of us is to be able to see that in our own lives. It is one thing to look at Jesus 2,000 years ago, having heard over and over again about His Passion and be able to say, “Well, thanks be to God! He did that, and, no, He wasn’t disgraced and He wasn’t put to shame; but, boy, when it comes to me and having to suffer, that’s a whole different matter because how could God allow me to be disgraced this way? How could He allow me to be shamed?” Why do we think it is different because it’s us? God did not abandon Our Lord. God did not abandon any of the martyrs. God has not abandoned any of the saints in their suffering, and He does not abandon us either. We can look at any of the martyrs and we can recognize that they have not been put to shame. They have shared in Our Lord’s glory and they have been exulted with Him. But, again, it is a whole lot easier to look at it from the outside, looking at someone else’s life and being able to say that. But when it comes to our own, it is much more difficult.
So that is the lesson that we have to learn: as long as we are faithful, we will not be put to shame. We will not be disgraced because we will be able to stand before God, and with Saint Paul we will be able to say, I have run the race; I have fought the fight; I have kept the faith. Therefore, I await the merited crown which awaits me. That is the most glorious thing that anyone would ever be able to say. It matters not what anyone tries to do to us, what they try to heap upon us, what they say about us, the way they treat us; it does not matter. As long as we are faithful, we will not be disgraced and we will not be put to shame because we are sharing in the Lord’s Passion, we are sharing in His glory. It is God Who exalts the humble; and if we are humiliated by human beings, we will be exalted by God. He will not abandon us in our time of need. Even though it may feel as if He has, He certainly will not. Just as He did not abandon Jesus, neither will He abandon us.
So the only question has to do with us: Are we going to abandon Him in our time of need? If we do, then we will be disgraced, then we will be shamed, because we have abandoned the One to Whom we are to be faithful. So we need to pray for that grace, first of all, to remain faithful; and secondly, to recognize the way that God is going to work, and to know that as long as we are faithful to Him, we will not be shamed or disgraced no matter how shamefully or disgracefully people treat us, and that we will be able to recognize, as we do in Jesus, as we do in the saints, that the way we are treated in those kinds of ways is actually our glory.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.