Thursday September 30, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Job 19:21-27) Gospel (St. Luke 10:1-12)
Our Lord, in the Gospel reading, tells us that we are to pray to the master of the harvest to send laborers out into the harvest. Naturally, what we have always thought is that this means priests and religious, but the reality is it means all of us, that each one of us who is called to live the Catholic life is called to be a laborer in the Lord’s vineyard. We are the ones who are to go out into the world and bring the message of God to other people. Now the Lord makes very clear what it is going to be like, that we are going out like lambs among wolves, not exactly the match-up one would hope for because we are obviously at a very grave disadvantage. Lambs tend to be very helpless; and wolves, of course, are pretty ravenous.
Yet, at the same time, we have God, and He is going to allow things at times to get difficult. To these disciples whom He sent out, He made very clear that there were going to be some people who would reject them. But they came to preach the message of Jesus Christ, which, because it means so much to us, we would assume it would mean so much to everyone else; the reality is that most people do not want it and therefore they are going to reject it. And the Lord says that in those cases, yes, you go out and shake the dust from your feet but you still continue to preach the same message: The kingdom of God is at hand. If they do not want to hear it, that is their choice. Our Lord tells us it will be easier on that day for Sodom than it will for those people because these are people who are rejecting Christ; they are rejecting the Gospel message of salvation.
However, in the midst of all the difficulties and struggles of trying to do this, we know from reading the Gospels and the other letters that this is not necessarily going to be an easy task. You read the list in Second Corinthians of what Saint Paul went through; you read when he himself says, We were crushed to the point of despairing of life itself. It is not an easy task to go out as a lamb among wolves. Yet, at the same time, as we listen to Job who tells us that he has been struck by the Almighty, he can turn right around in the midst of his suffering and say, But I know that my Vindicator lives. What a phenomenal thing he is saying because it is not something that the Jewish people at the time of Job would have understood or believed in yet. I and not another will see Him face-to-face in my own flesh. He is talking about the resurrection of the dead, and he is talking about the fact that if he remains faithful to God he is going to see God face-to-face – and so will you. What a wonderful thing!
Remember that on the whole spectrum of eternity this is hardly even a dot on the screen. So we have a choice: Are we going to live in this world as lambs among the wolves, or are we going to become like the wolves? If we become like the wolves, we are not living the message of Christ. No matter how much we want to protest about our love for Jesus, if we do not live it we deny Him; and if we deny Him, He will deny us, as He Himself said. It is not enough to give lip service; we have to live what we profess. If we live what we profess, if we live our Catholic life the way we are called to do, then we know that we are going to suffer for it. At the same time, it is in the midst of that suffering that we are demonstrating our fidelity to the Lord when we do not back away when things get difficult, and it is precisely because of that fidelity that we could say with Job, I know that my Vindicator lives. I will see Him face-to-face, or that we could say with Saint Paul, Now I look forward to the merited crown that awaits me.
Those are the kinds of things that prove the faith after demonstrating it through being tried in fire, which, again, the saints tell us all about how it is these purifications that test us, prove us, and perfect us. They are not punishments and they are not things that should be avoided. In our humanness, we would much prefer to avoid them; but, in fact, they are gifts. They are gifts from God to help us to grow, to help us become more perfect, so that we have the opportunity to perfect that faith which is going to lead us to the face-to-face vision of Almighty God in eternity.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.