Wednesday June 9, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Kings 18:20-39) Gospel (St. Matthew 5:17-19)
Our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading today that He has come not to abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill them. And He tells us very clearly that not even the smallest part of a letter is going to pass away. In other words, that would be like saying that not even the dot over the “i” is going to pass away before it is all fulfilled. The reason is because it is all the Word of God, it is all inspired, and it is all true; and because it is true, it will be fulfilled to every last little detail. That is the point Our Lord wants us to understand.
Now part of the fulfillment of all this is what the prophets teach us. We can look, for instance, at the time of the prophet Elijah. At that time, the people for the most part had apostasized from God. They were following Baal and they were following all kinds of other false gods. And so Elijah is saying to them, “Make a choice. If the Lord is God, follow Him. If Baal is god, follow him. Which is it going to be?” And, boy, if they were not just like 21st century Americans: they stood there silent because they wanted to hedge their bets. They did not want to make a choice and they did not want to follow anyone. They wanted to try to do both. “Maybe it’s this one or maybe it’s that one, so we’re going to play all the games just in case.” That would be like saying, “I don’t know if Satan is god or if God is God, so I’ll worship both of them and I’ll see which one is going to do what I want them to do.”
Well, we are not stupid enough not to know that Satan is going to give us what we want – not what we need – but he is going to give us what we want. God, on the other hand, is going to test our faith. He will provide everything we need, He will answer all our prayers, but not in the way that we necessarily think they should be answered and not in the time we think they should be answered. He is simply going to ask, “Do you believe?” Not with all kinds of extraordinary signs and so on because that just passes away. God could work some extraordinary miracle today and by next week we will have forgotten that it even happened and we would be right back to our old way of life. That stuff is a flash in the pan. God wants faith, deep faith.
That is exactly what is going to be necessary. At the time of the prophet Elijah, there had been three years without a drop of rain. So there was a drought, there were no crops, there was no water for the people to drink, and still they refused to believe in God. Of course, what they would do was to curse God because He was not doing things the way they thought it should be done. Rather than having faith in God, they turned against Him. And they used that drought as the rationalization for why they should turn against Him: “After all, if He’s God and He loves us, He shouldn’t be doing this to us! Therefore, He must not love us or He’s not powerful enough or He just simply doesn’t exist.” Well, things have not changed. Human nature has not changed. When things do not go our way, we begin to get angry with God, we doubt, we question; sometimes we even curse God because He is not doing things the way that we (who think that we are God) think He ought to do it. Therefore, we start to slip away.
When we see this, we have to recognize that our faith is very weak, very weak. It is precisely in these ways that God is going to strengthen it. If we can continue to pray through the midst of the difficulties, if we can remain faithful in the midst of it, we will grow in that faith. We will become more virtuous and we will see that God will indeed answer all our prayers, but in a way that we could never have even dreamed of and in a time that is truly right. Not necessarily, again, in our time (that is, in the time that we thought they should be answered) but in a time that is the best. This is very, very difficult. But the time that we are going into is going to be just like the time of Elijah. There is going to be mass apostasy. People are falling away; they are doubting; they are doing all kinds of things that we know they should not be doing. Yet, as things continue to get worse, chances are that all of us are going to be tempted to do the same. Unless the faith is firmly established, and unless the prayer life is firmly established, we are going to waver – and we might fall.
As a word of warning: None of us can count on our own strength. It is a guarantee that if we try we will fall. There is no possible way that we are going to be able to do it alone. So if we are sitting here today saying, “Oh, I’ll be fine. I’ll be able to make it through whatever comes,” as a word of warning, you are hanging over the edge of a cliff if you have that attitude. The attitude that we have to have is “I know that I am weak, and I know that without God I can do nothing. Therefore, I need to pray and I need to be firmly rooted in prayer so that God will give me the strength to be able to do what needs to be done.” That is the only way. If we rely on ourselves, we are going to fall flat on our faces. If we rely on God, we are going to be fine.
Now it may seem that God is not there, that He is not answering, that He is not doing anything, but He is. He is doing profound things. We need to trust and we need to have faith. We need to continue to pray and do what is right. It is not going to be easy always, but it is the way that God is going to make us saints. We have a glorious opportunity, and now it is a question of whether or not we are going to do it. It is very simple; the dichotomy is clear. The choice is ours. Who is God? Make your choice and serve Him.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.