We Need to Change Our Lives and Do His Will
Friday December 10, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Advent
Reading (Isaiah 48:17-19) Gospel (St. Matthew 11:16-19)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord makes a point that is very, very important for all of us to be able to understand, and yet at the same time one that is very difficult to be able to deal with. He points out that Saint John the Baptist came into this world neither eating nor drinking – he was out in the desert dressed in camel’s hair and eating grasshoppers and honey – and, of course, they said, “He’s possessed. He’s crazy. There’s something wrong with this guy.” Even though people were going out to him in droves and being baptized, nonetheless, their reaction was “He is insane,” or worse, “He is possessed.” Then Our Lord comes, and externally He is living what they would consider a more normal kind of life – but He would go and eat with tax collectors and sinners and so on – and they said, “This guy, he’s a glutton and a drunkard.” You cannot make them happy.
The problem is we are not anything unlike these others. Things happen, and since no one is perfect other than Our Lord, then we look and notice the imperfections in others. We are very quick to point them out and we use that to justify why they really cannot be of God, because, after all, they are not perfect (as though if some of us were called by God to do something, somehow or another we would suddenly be perfect in doing it; it is not going to happen). All we have to do is look at the prophets of the Old Testament. The people knew they were prophets that were called by God, and still they did not want to listen to them. Ultimately, they killed them. They did not want it. That is going to be a problem for anyone called by the Lord: The people do not want to hear the message.
But we have to be very careful and very discerning because, on the one hand, obviously there are lots of things going on with everyone and anyone claiming that they are hearing from Our Lady or seeing somebody or talking to something or whatever it is these days. Most of it is false. Just because somebody claims something does not mean it is absolutely true and we have to believe it. At the same time, we need to recognize that if God wants to do something He can. We do not want to just out-and-out reject everything, so again it requires great caution. Otherwise, what could happen is Our Lord could come and we would be the first to say, “It can’t be him.” Of course, if we would do that, we are also going to be the ones who would be shouting two thousand years ago, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” because we do not really want to believe and we do not want to deal with things.
And so Our Lord is pointing out that it did not matter whether it was John the Baptist coming as a prophet (in a rather extreme way, if one might point out) or whether it was God Himself coming in human form, we were not going to accept him. The same is true for most people today. They do not want the Church, they do not want the Lord as the Lord – they want to claim Him as Lord but they do not want to do His Will – they do not want to follow the Commandments, they do not want to live a holy life, but they give Him lip service. This is something we all have to look at within our own selves and ask ourselves, number one, “Are we truly believing? Are we living the faith that we profess? Are we truly being followers of Christ?” If we are going to say that He is Lord, then that means we have to live the life that would be required of us and we have to believe in everything He teaches.
In the first reading, God says through the prophet Isaiah, If you would hearken to My commandments, all these other things would follow. All we have to do is make the changes in our lives to live what we believe. But that is the hard part. As always, and as I have pointed out many times, we do not like to change. So we can listen to this over and over and over again and we walk away and nothing happens. Not because it was not true or it was not good, but because we do not want to change. Therefore, we do the same thing to Our Lord. We like Him from a distance, we acknowledge that He is God, that He is Lord, that He is Messiah, but we do not want to change our lives to become more like Him and to do His Will. And so we become just like the people He was talking to today. We look at the saints and we think they are all right – but we do not want to be like them. We look at Jesus and Mary and we think they are wonderful – but we do not want to be like them, either. You can say, “Okay, you don’t want to be one way and you don’t want to be the other way. What’s going to make you happy?” The answer, if we are going to be honest with ourselves, is “nothing” because we do not want it.
That is what needs to change. We need to look at it and say, “It’s not enough to look at the saints from a distance. It’s not enough to read the Gospels and think that Jesus is pretty good.” If we are going to profess it, we have to live it, we have to change and be like Jesus, be like Our Lady, be like the saints, and not just simply hold them at an arm’s distance and say, “It was good that they did what they did, but I don’t want to.” That is not enough. Otherwise, we can look at all of them, some of the incredibly ascetic saints, and we can say, “We piped you a dirge, but you didn’t wail.” We can look at saints like Therese, that everybody loves, and we can say, “We piped you a tune, but you wouldn’t dance.” All we can say is that we like our sins, we like to be mediocre, we do not want to be saints. That is a tragedy because we are going to look at Jesus and we are going to do the same thing to Him: “He’s really great, but I don’t want to be like Him.” That is not an option if we are going to claim to be His followers, and it will be our condemnation if we continue in that. So we need to make the change to hearken to the Commandments of the Lord, to hear His voice, to be obedient, and to live the faith that we profess.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.