Wednesday September 22, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Proverbs 30:5-9) Gospel (St. Luke 9:1-6)
When we hear these words today from the Book of Proverbs saying, Give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need, most of us would sit back and say, “That sounds like a pretty wonderful way to live.” But on the practical level, most of us do not want anything to do with it. We want to make sure we have a big fat bank account; we want to make sure we have a three weeks’ supply of food sitting in the cabinet; we want to make sure we are well provided for and that there is not going to be the slightest little bit of hunger that we are going to have to deal with, or inconvenience for that matter. And so we see where we are not exactly living according to what God is telling us.
He sends His disciples out two by two and says to them, Take no money. Don’t take any extra clothes. Do not take an extra pair of shoes. Just go. In other words, trust. He gave to them the authority to expel demons and to cure the sick, authority which of themselves they realized they did not have. And to walk into a town someplace and lay hands on someone and say, “Stand up and walk,” is going to take a huge amount of trust, just as it is going to take a huge amount of trust to walk into a town where you know absolutely nobody and trust that someone is going to take you into their home, that they are going to feed you, and that all your needs are going to be met. Yet that is exactly what the Lord asked of His disciples. Now it is not that He is asking each of us to wander aimlessly from town to town and see if we can preach the Gospel and trust in the Lord, but He is asking each one of us in the state of life to which He has called us to trust Him completely.
In Proverbs, the author tells us that if he has too much he is going to say, “Who is the Lord?” Isn’t that the American problem? We do not need God because we have too much. Who needs to trust God? Who needs to pray? As long as we have lots of material things and lots of money, we can serve mammon because we do not need God. And if we do not have enough, then we may do something that would be sinful in order to get what we decide that we need. In that, too, the author of Proverbs is saying that he does not want to profane the Name of God. So it is that point of the trust, but it is exactly that for which we pray in the Our Father everyday. We say, Give us this day our daily bread. Give us just what we need. That is what He required of the Israelites out in the desert: Go out and pick up the manna – but only as much as what you need for one day, except for the day before the Sabbath then get enough for two days. They had to trust. They had to learn that God would provide for their needs if they trusted Him. They had to draw close to Him.
Again, objectively that sounds like a pretty wonderful way to live – it sounds pretty easy – but as it says at the beginning of the first reading, every word of God is tested. He has placed His word within you, now it is just a question of whether you are going to believe it. He is not going to provide for you way, way in advance if you are going to trust Him. The disciples going from town to town just simply had to trust when they got to that town that somebody would be there to take them in. So it is not like He is going to give you everything you need, sometimes even hours before you need it or even minutes before you need it. As you learn to trust, then you just trust that He is going to provide at the exact moment you need it, whatever it may be. Of course, for us, we think we need it right now and then we get angry when God does not provide at the exact moment that we think He needed to provide. Sometimes He pushes it way beyond – minutes, hours, days, weeks, months – and then we get angry and we think, “Why didn’t You provide when I needed to be provided for?” But when we look back at it we realize that He provided exactly when we needed it, not when we thought we needed it but when we truly did, and that He provided in other ways for whatever it is that we may have needed at the time.
So we see in this the struggle that we have with trust and how important that is, because otherwise if we are so accustomed to having lots of excess and not needing to trust in God then in times of difficulty we are not going to trust Him because we never had to. And when push comes to shove, we are going to look to ourselves or to someone or something else, and not to God. If He leaves you in difficulty at this time, praise Him! That is a great gift because the times that are going to come will be times where you are going to be absolutely dependent on God and there will be no other way; and if you are not, then you are going to fall away. Those are the only two possibilities.
We have to learn to trust Him. We have to learn to rely on Him. We have to learn from our own experience that He is trustworthy. We know that in our heads, but it is a question of the practical reality, not the theoretical. And so He allows difficulties, struggles, and problems to arise in our lives so that we will turn to Him, so that we will rely on Him, so that we will learn to trust Him. He has placed that word in us, in fact He has made us members of the Word of God, and every word of God is tested. It is going to be tested within us. If we profess to believe then you can count on the fact that that is going to be tried and tested, not in order so much to try to take it away from us, not so that we will fail, but so that it will be strengthened, so that we will continue to believe and continue to trust and grow until the point where we do not turn to anything else but to God alone to provide for all that we need.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.