Monday July 26, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Saints Joachim and Anne
Reading (Sirach 44:1, 10-15) Gospel (St. Matthew 13:16-17)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord pronounces His disciples blessed because of what they were able to see and to hear, which of course means that they were able to see the Messiah and they were able to hear the Word of God. It is indeed a great blessing if we were to just stop and think for even a split second about the blessing the apostles had to be able to be with Our Lord, to live with Him, to hear Him, to see His example. What an incredible blessing they were given!
Yet, at the same time, we have to be able to look at our own selves and see the blessing that God has given to us to be able to know the Word of God, to be able to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion, to be able to be united with Him through the sacraments and in the Church, and even to be able to be alive at this time. It is actually in some ways a far greater blessing to be alive now than it would have been then, whether that was for the apostles or whomever, because we have the full teaching of the Church and we have the example of the saints. We can look to the apostles who had to make that astounding act of faith in Christ and we can build upon that. So the privilege we have is in many ways even greater than the privilege they had.
But, at the same time, we see that the exact same thing is expected. God is going to expect that we, like they, will make this act of faith and that we will live according to what it is that we profess. God has made promises, and He is going to fulfill every last one of those promises. The timing, of course, is His. The people He is going to choose to do what He needs to do is entirely up to Him, but the fact that He will fulfill them and that for today He has chosen us means we have an obligation to be able to live according to the promises God has made.
And so we look, for instance, at our saints today, Anne and Joachim, the parents of our Blessed Lady. The holiness of this married couple was exceedingly great because they believed what God had told them. It is not that God necessarily informed them of anything, appeared to them, gave them any kind of extraordinary knowledge of what was going to be happening through them, but rather they knew the promises because of Scripture – and they believed. It was not that they were running around saying, “The Mother of the Messiah is going to be born of us,” – we do not even know if they knew that that was the daughter to whom they gave birth – but what we know is that they were faithful to God because they believed, first of all, in Him, and secondly, in the promises He had made. Therefore, they were faithful and they were filled with love for God. It is precisely that love for God which was rewarded with the greatest gift, the gift to give birth to the Mother of God and the gift of having their Grandson, Who is the Incarnate Word of God. Did they even understand that at the time? We have no idea, but the reality is still there that God fulfilled His promises through them.
For generations, the people of the Old Testament were waiting for the Messiah, but God chose the people whom He would and He raised up Anne and Joachim specifically for that purpose. He has raised us up today specifically for His purpose. Whether it is in our day that His promises will be fulfilled, that, again, we do not know; we can reason to it, but we still do not know for sure. But regardless of whether it is now or in the future, what we do know is that God has chosen us to be alive right now during this time. He has chosen us to have knowledge of Him, to have faith in Him, to love Him, and to be saints in our day. That is exactly what He wants. Anne and Joachim were in love with God and with one another precisely because of their faith in God. They were not worried so much about whether the promises would be fulfilled in them or even in their time. They were only concerned about loving God and being saints in their own day. That is exactly what we need to be concerned about: loving God and being saints. That is what God is looking for from us, and it is what the world needs more than anything else – saints, people who love God – because that is what will change the world.
So we need to really look at this and be able to say, “Blessed are your eyes and blessed are your ears,” not because of the filth that we get to see and hear if we just even walk out on the street these days, but because this is the time that God Himself has chosen for us, that in the midst of all the unfortunate stuff we get to see and hear He has given us the knowledge to know Jesus Christ, to be able to be united with Him in the Eucharist, to hear His words spoken through the Scriptures, to know Him and to love Him in a world which neither knows nor loves Him. This is a great blessing, and it is a wonderful opportunity for each of us to be able to be saints, to know and to love and to serve God. That is what He has chosen us to do and all He is asking now is our fidelity and our love. It is precisely in doing this that the promises God has made will be fulfilled in us, maybe not the promises regarding the whole world, but the most important promise for each of us anyway – that we will be able to go to heaven, that we will inherit everything He has promised, and that we will see Him face-to-face for all eternity.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.