Wednesday July 28, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Jeremiah 15:10, 16-21) Gospel (St. Matthew 13:44-46)
The Gospel tells us exactly how precious the kingdom of heaven is: It is worth selling absolutely everything we have in order to obtain it. At the same time, Our Lord in speaking to the prophet Jeremiah tells him, If you bring forth the precious without the vile then you will stand in My presence. In other words, what we have to be doing is not only seeking the kingdom of God from within, but we have to make sure that what we are doing is bringing forth the kingdom of God into this world.
Now that has a little bit of a risk involved. That is, either we do not really want to get rid of everything in order to obtain the kingdom of God, which causes an interior tension and therefore we get frustrated and angry because we are trying to hang on to all the worldly things while at the same time trying to serve God (You cannot do both; it does not work); or the other part that becomes a problem, and it is a serious problem for anyone who really wants to take up the spiritual life, is that as we begin to move forward in the spiritual life there comes a point where most people get really angry because they are looking at God and then they are looking at the mess that surrounds them and they get really frustrated and angry about what is going on, sometimes angry at God because of the suffering He is allowing them to endure, angry at the world because of all the evil and all the sin, frustrated because people in the Church are not getting rid of the problems or because God is allowing them to happen or whatever it might be. What happens is that these individuals will feel completely justified in their anger because, after all, what they are looking at is true. There is no doubt about it; objectively, what they are saying is true. “Look at this violation, look at this abuse, look at this problem, look at these things…” They are all true.
That is exactly what happened to Jeremiah. He had sought the Word of God, he had devoured the Word of God, and he says that it became the joy and the happiness of his heart. But all of a sudden he is angry. Well, if you read the story of Jeremiah, one can understand why he would be a little upset. But then God tells him, If you do this the right way then I’m going to be with you. I will make you a solid wall of brass; I will deliver you from the hands of the violent. Now that did not mean He was not going to allow Jeremiah to suffer, because He did. Again, just read the Book of Jeremiah and you will find what he had to endure at the hands of the people, and then of course he was eventually put to death. But God is the One Who gave him the grace to be able to embrace these things and no longer to get angry because of it.
He will do the same for us if we are willing. What that requires is that we need to take our eyes off all of the problems, as real and as true as they are, and we need to put them on the Lord. If in devouring the words of God Jeremiah found the joy and the happiness of his heart, then the obvious question would be “Why did he take his eyes off the Word of God and put them onto all the problems and get angry?” Well, because he is human. But he knew where he needed to go to be able to find the joy and the happiness of his heart once again – to the Word of God. The Word of God is in your heart if you are in the state of grace. The Word of God is Jesus Christ and He dwells within. He is right there to be the joy and the happiness of your heart. There are lots of problems in the world and lots of problems in the Church and lots of problems in our own personal lives, and they are all real and they are all true. We can be really angry and what good is it going to do? Just look back over your life and ask yourself, “How much good has all my anger done? How much change has it brought? How many people has it brought to the Lord? What good has it accomplished for me or for anyone else?” If you have no fingers on your hand, you could count the number of times it has helped you on your fingers – none. It never does and it never will. So what we need to do is get our focus off of that stuff and put it on the Lord, Who will help us to endure the difficulties and the problems of life, Who will give us joy even in the midst of the suffering because we are united with Him. Those are the two alternatives and there is not any other.
Jesus is the One Who is precious. We can bring forth the Word of God or we can bring forth the vile, the anger, the filth, all of the garbage that is within. It will do no one any good, but it will push people away from Christ because they will use that as their rationalization to not come to Christ. “If that’s what it means to be a Christian and a follower of the Lord, why would I want to do that? I can be a pagan and be angry too.” So we need to make sure we are seeking the Lord and not justifying our own anger because the things that we are looking at are real. Bring forth the precious without the vile, the Lord says. Let the Word of God, Jesus Christ, be the true joy and happiness of our hearts, and then we will stand in the Lord’s presence, He tells us; then He will make us a solid wall of brass. None of that stuff will penetrate us. We will acknowledge it, but it is not going to cause us a problem anymore because we will be at peace with God. Then He Himself will be our strength and He Himself will free us from all of the garbage and from the hand of the violent so that we will be able in all things to be joyful and to do His Will.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.