Wednesday July 21, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Jeremiah 1:1, 4-10) Gospel (St. Matthew 13:1-9)
In the first reading today, we hear the call of the prophet Jeremiah, God calling him to the work that the Lord has appointed him to do. The important thing of seeing this is that each one of us has also been called by God for a specific purpose. We can also say along with the prophet, Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. From all eternity, God knew that He was going to create you, which also says something about our despicable law regarding the killing of babies. From all eternity, God knew that He was going to create those babies. He knew that those persons were going to be formed in their mothers’ wombs, and so to suggest that somehow they are not human, or to suggest that somehow they do not have dignity, or that somehow they are not human until they are born, or whatever they want to say is all complete nonsense because these children have been planned by God from all eternity.
Now, for all of us, we have this call from God, and just like the prophet we will probably try to suggest to God that we cannot do what it is that He is asking us to do. And it is true that by ourselves we cannot. Jeremiah, for instance, when he hears the call of God, rejects it and complains because he says he is too young. How can he go out and speak? He does not have the eloquence, for one; and, number two, who is going to listen to him when he is young? But because it is the Lord Who is doing the work and it is His call, God will give the grace. That is exactly what He tells Jeremiah: I place My words in your mouth. This day I have set you over nations and kingdoms. It is God’s Word, it is God’s work. And so it is in us. Perhaps we are not called to be prophets to the nations, but it does not matter what it is that God is calling us to; what matters is that we accept His call and do His work and that we do it with Him. Remember how we struggle with thinking that we have to do this by ourselves – “This is mine to do, therefore, I have to do it with my strength.” It does not work. All it does is exhaust us and we do not accomplish a whole lot. But when we recognize that it is God’s work and it is His strength that we need to be able to do His work, then we will accomplish much because it is He Who will be accomplishing it in us.
What we need to do is to pray so that we can get out of the way, so that we can know what God wants, so that we can do it. God is spreading that seed, as we heard in the Gospel reading, upon each and every one of us; and He expects that it is going to produce thirty or sixty or a hundredfold. It is up to Him as to what He expects from us; it is up to us to cooperate. Imagine on the Day of Judgment having to stand before the Lord without much fruit and hear Him say, “I gave you this call, I planted this seed within your heart, and I expected thirty or sixty or a hundredfold harvest. Where is it?” What are we going to say? “I did it my way”? “I did what I thought was going to be the best”? “I thought this was something that would be pleasing to You”? What are we going to try to explain to Him? It is His work. We are there to do the work, and we have the privilege of being chosen by God for a very specific and set purpose. But that means we have to cooperate with Him. It is not that we are given an assignment and told to go out on our own and do it, but rather we are to cooperate with Him and we are to allow Him to work in us and through us. So we have to make sure we are praying, and we have to make sure we are seeking His Will because it is He Whom we serve. If we are willing to do it His way (that is, if we are willing to seek His Will and get out of the way) then we become the instrument through which His work is done. When we are allowing Him to do the work in us and through us, then it will bear fruit – thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold – and that fruit will last because it will be God doing the work in us and not us trying to do the work that we think might be the best.
So as we see the prophet being called, just remember it is not something that is specific only to a prophet; each and every one of us has been called by God. The question is simply: To what have we been called? What does God want of us? That will only be learned in prayer.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.