Friday July 30, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Jeremiah 26:1-9) Gospel (St. Matthew 13:54-58)
In the readings today, there are two things we can see; one is the great mercy of God. The people of Israel had been sinning against God for a long time, and yet, God in His mercy sends the prophet to walk right into the temple of the Lord and to speak the Word of God. The Lord says, Omit nothing of what I have told you, for perhaps in hearing this they will turn from their evil ways and follow the law of God. That is exactly what Our Lord wants. He desires that we would stop doing the evil and that we would do what is right. And in His mercy, knowing our human weakness, He gives us opportunity after opportunity; then, when we refuse over and over again to turn back to the Lord, He inflicts upon us what is just, what we have coming to us. When that happens, no one will be able to say, “We didn’t know; we didn’t have a fair warning. You didn’t give us a chance; how were we supposed to turn around if we didn’t know any better?” Everybody will know better.
The people heard Jeremiah speaking and they said, “You must be put to death,” because they did not like what he had to say. He was simply saying, “If you don’t change the way that you’re living, this temple is going to be like the temple in Shiloh which the Lord allowed to be destroyed because of the faithlessness of the people.” He told them that the city was going to be desolate, which is exactly what happened. The temple was destroyed and all the people were taken into captivity and led off into Babylonia because of their infidelity to the Lord. In fact, the prophet tells us that the very reason why they were led off into captivity is because they killed their babies, because they sacrificed their babies to demons.
Well, how many times have we been warned? Four thousand babies a day in this country, and we are not the worst; there are many countries that are sacrificing far more children than we are. The warnings have been given and will once again be given before the Lord intervenes. He is so incredibly merciful that He is going to warn us even again, as if we really need to be warned again. The problem is that, unfortunately, most people are going to be just like the people of Nazareth. The Lord is going to come to His own and they are going to say, “Where did he get all of this? Who does he think he is? We know him, after all.” And the very ones who should be the ones to respond are probably going to be the ones who are going to reject His warning. The ones whom we might not expect, the warning may shake them up and they will come to the Lord.
On our part, we need to make sure that we have our ears and our hearts open to hear the Word of the Lord. We cannot sit back and say, “The Lord has promised that the jaws of hell will never prevail against the Church; therefore, He is never going to let anything happen to the Church.” All we have to do is look historically at what has happened to know better than that. All He said was, “The jaws of hell will not prevail…” He did not say that He was not going to allow the jaws of hell to attack. He did not say that there would never be any kind of purification for the Church, because in fact we know there will be. The Church is going to be crucified. The Church will appear externally to be destroyed, to be desolate, to be completely wiped out because of the infidelity of the people. But also, on the other side of it, because of the fidelity of those who have sought the Lord with all their heart and soul and strength, they are the ones who will give the Lord the greatest consolation. They are the ones who will be with Him in His hour of trial, in His Passion.
So we have that choice. We can reject the Lord, we can reject His voice, we can reject His words and His warnings, and we can walk away from Him in His Passion – or we can remain faithful to Him. In Israel, both the good and the bad went into exile. In the Church, the good and the bad are going to go to the Cross. Only those who will be faithful to the Lord will be with Him all the way to Calvary. You have to ask the simple question: “Am I going to be one of those who will be with Him? Will I heed His word? Will I listen to His warning? Will I remain faithful to the Lord in the midst of His suffering?” This is the time for the suffering of the Mystical Christ, for the passion of the Church. The Lord has spoken, the question is – Are we going to listen? Or are we going to look at the prophet as they did in the Old Testament and say, “You must be put to death because you speak words that we don’t want to hear.” Do we want to hear the Word of God, or do we not? Do we want to heed His warning, or do we not? The choice is ours. We have to prepare ourselves because the time for the purification is near. Are we going to be among those who will be faithful to the Lord and go with Him to Calvary?
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.