Monday October 18, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Timothy 4:10-17b) Gospel (St. Luke 10:1-9)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells us that He is sending us as sheep among wolves, which is not a very happy thought if you are the sheep that is out there among the wolves. Yet, at the same time, He tells us that He is not going to abandon us. Part of the purpose of what He is doing is to teach us to trust that He will take care of us, that He will do all things for us if we trust Him. If we are trying to do His Will, then He will handle everything. Now the problem is we always assume for some odd reason that that means He is going to make things real easy, open up all the doors wide open for us, and just bring us in on some sort of magic carpet so we are not going to have any problems. Then we listen to what Saint Paul has to say: Demas was enamored with the present world and deserted him, he went to court and not one person took his side (he was deserted by everyone at that point), and all the difficulties he had to endure. Yet it was through this, he says, that God brought about the preaching of the Gospel to all the Gentiles.
We all know too well how in our own lives the Lord has done similar things, that some very difficult and painful things will come up in our lives and, of course, we stomp our feet and scream at God and wonder why He is doing what He is doing or not doing what we think He ought to do or whatever it might be, only to find out that was precisely the means by which He was bringing about the purpose He had intended. It is only by seeing this happen over and over and over and over again that we finally learn to quit stomping our feet and complaining and screaming because eventually we figure out that this is really what is best and that this is the way that is going to work most perfectly.
And so what we have to do is just learn to trust that He is going to protect us. It does not mean that He is not going to let anything bad happen to us, but it means that He is going to free us from all of it and He will use all of those things to bring about the purpose for which He intends. That is not an easy thing, and so we get afraid. We think, “Well, if that’s what is supposed to happen, I don’t know if I want to go out there. Why would I want to be a sheep among wolves? Even if I have a Shepherd who says He’s going to protect me, if He’s going to let me get bitten up and then finally throw the wolf off of me, why would I want to go out?” Because of who the Shepherd is and because of the task we are called to perform. It is to bring Jesus Christ out into the world, and they hate Jesus Christ in the world, which is why they are going to hate you and they are going to go after you like a bunch of wolves that go after sheep – because they do not want to hear the Gospel.
Should we be surprised that they treat us the same way they treated Him? No. In fact, what should happen is we should rejoice that they treat us the same way they treated Him. The problem is that sometimes in our innocence we are shocked and amazed that people do not want the truth, that they do not really want to hear the Gospel, that they do not care about Jesus Christ and His Church. But we need to stop being shocked and amazed at that and what we really need to be shocked and amazed at are the people who actually cooperate with God’s grace. They want to hear the Gospel and they want to cooperate with the truth. That is what will give us the greatest sense of rejoicing. When you see even one soul turn to God, that makes all the suffering worthwhile. So it does not matter how many times you get bitten by the wolf, as long as the Shepherd continues to pull you away from the wolf so you can continue to do your work. It is in that that we learn to trust Him.
But in this also, remember that He told His disciples not to take any money with them, not to take a staff, not to take a second pair of sandals or a change of clothes. They just had to trust, and that is exactly what we have to do. We have to keep our focus on Jesus and remember what it is that we are supposed to do and why we are doing it. It is for Him. It is not about us – it is about Him. And as long as we keep our focus on Him, it does not matter how many wolves surround us; we can preach the Gospel to them too. The Lord is going to bring about His end, His purpose, through us if we will trust Him and if we will allow ourselves to go out into the world as sheep among wolves, trusting and knowing that our Shepherd is going to free us from every attack and every attempt to do us harm, and that in all of those attempts He is going to bring about the very best for us and for others and use that for His own glory.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.