Are We a Rebellious House?
Thursday August 12, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier†† Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Ezekiel 12:1-12)††† Gospel (St. Matthew 18:21-19:1)
In the first reading today, the prophet Ezekiel is told by God that he is to be a sign to the people, that as he is doing, they are going to have to do. That is part of what a prophet is to be. The prophetís task is to tell the people what Godís Will is for them. It is not so much about trying to predict the future Ė that is one small, little aspect of the gift of prophecy Ė but the task of the prophet is to tell the people what it is that God wants, to call them to repentance, to be able to get them on the right track, to be able to be a sign for the people so that they will be able to know what it is that God desires.
Our Lord also is a Priest, a Prophet, and a King, so part of His prophetic office is to be that sign for us. He told us very clearly that was the case. This evil generation seeks a sign, He said, but no sign shall be given it except the sign of Jonah, and then told us that as Jonah was as sign to the Ninevites so He Himself would be a sign to that generation. But He is still that sign to us. At the same time, He brings many others before to us to be a sign, and the signs that He wants us to be able to understand have not changed one bit. He could say to the house of Israel, This is a rebellious house. They have eyes but they do not see, they have ears but they do not hear. Our Lord said the exact same thing in His day, and I think that the same thing could certainly be said (in fact, even more strongly) today.
At the same time, we can look at what Our Lord is telling us in the Gospel reading about forgiveness. We can look at what He did as far as suffering goes; we can look at many, many aspects of His life and we see that He is a sign to us, that as He has done, we also must do. He had to go to the Cross, so must we if we are going to be real Christians; but, from the Cross, He forgave the people who sinned against Him and so must we if we are going to be true Christians. That is part of what we have to be, and, in that, because we are members of Christ, we too are priests, prophets, and kings; and we are called to be a sign to this generation, to this rebellious house.
But before we can be a sign to the rebellious house, we have to stop rebelling. Ezekiel had to be obedient to what God told him to do, even though it seemed a little bit strange. Jesus, being God, was going to be obedient to Himself, but He had to come into this world and be ďobedient even to death on the Cross,Ē Saint Paul says. Our Lady was perfectly obedient. We have to learn to stop rebelling. We have to be able to look at Our Lord and realize that He is a sign for us. What He has done for us, He has called us to continue to do. As He continues to give Himself to us in the Blessed Sacrament, so He asks that we would be the same way, that we would be willing to give, to sacrifice ourselves. He tells us, As you have been forgiven, so you have to forgive. How many of us continue to hold grudges, anger, hatred, whatever it might be, in our hearts? Unforgiveness for something that may have happened years and years and years ago, and we still stubbornly hang onto it. Whatever it is that whoever did to you, look at the Cross and ask yourself, ďDid they put me to death?Ē The answer, I guess, is pretty self-evident isnít it? Jesus, in the midst of being put to death, forgave the people who had done this to Him. He is a sign. None of us has had something that severe done to us, and if He is a sign to us then we have to do as we have seen.
More than that, we have to do what has been done to us; not by the people who did the evil to us, but as Our Lord has forgiven us so we have to forgive. We have experienced His mercy and we have to put it into practice, otherwise we are the rebellious house. We are the ones giving lip service to God, but we are not practicing what it is that we preach. If that is the case, then, like the people of Jerusalem in Ezekielís time, we are going to realize that we are the ones in exile. Maybe we are not being led off captive to a foreign land, but it is far worse: We are in exile from God because we are separating ourselves from Him, because we are not doing His Will, because the sign has been given to us but we have eyes and do not see and ears but do not hear because it requires something of us. It requires that we would be willing to open our hearts, that we would change our lives, that we would do as we have seen and as we have heard. That is exactly what Our Lord is asking of us.
These are not easy things, but He never told us that to follow Him would be easy. So we need to look at that and we need to apply these things to ourselves. Our Lordís sign remains in our midst, and He has given us many, many, many others. How many people in our own lives have we seen come back to the Church Ė after living horrendous lives Ė and be forgiven? We need to see that is a sign of Godís mercy in our midst, and we have to practice the same kind of mercy. How many things have we seen God do in our lives and in the lives of those around us? We have to learn from those things, otherwise we are going to stand before the Lord one day and He is going to look at us and say, You are a rebellious house. You had eyes but you didnít see, and you had ears but you didnít hear because you were a rebellious house. You didnít want to do My Will; you wanted to do your own. You didnít learn from My example because you wanted to follow somebody else. Remember, there are ultimately only two; if we are not following Jesus, we are following the devil. So that is the choice we have. And we know there are only two choices of where we are going to go for eternity. If we are not on the path following Christ, then we are on the opposite path. The choice is ours. We need to stop being a rebellious house, we need to see what Our Lord has done, we need to see the sign, and we need to do as He has done.
*† This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.