Thursday December 16, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week of Advent
Reading (Isaiah 54:1-10) Gospel (St. Luke 7:24-30)
In the first reading today from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, we have this glorious promise God has made that with enduring love He is going to take us back even though He had abandoned us for a brief time. And then He says that His love is going to endure forever – it will never leave us and His covenant of peace is going to be firm forever – and that He will have mercy on us. So we know that with Our Lord this is precisely the case, that He has come to us, He has given Himself to us as a husband, and therefore, in giving everything to us in that covenant of love that He made on the cross, He will never ever abandon us. He is faithful to His promises and His mercy, then, is going to endure.
Now at the same time we also have to understand that as He Himself came into this world in a way that was not expected, so too His love is going to be demonstrated sometimes in ways that are not expected. For instance, in the Gospel reading today we hear the question that the Lord asked: What did you go out into the desert to see? We have to ask the same thing. What did we come to Our Lord to see? What were we seeking? Whom did we find? If the people went out to the desert because they wanted to see a reed swayed by the wind, that is not what they found. If they went out to the desert to see someone who was dressed nicely, they did not find that either. Who knows what their expectations were, but I think we can be reasonably guaranteed that whatever their expectations were when they went out into the desert, what they found was not quite what they had anticipated. To find John the Baptist out there dressed in camel’s hair, eating grasshoppers and wild honey, I do not suppose any of us would have assumed that was what would have been found out in the desert. Well, to come before the Lord and find Him present among us in the form of a piece of bread is something that no one would expect either, and then to see the way that He works in our lives, in ways that none of us would ever choose, in ways that none of us would ever anticipate.
We begin to realize that the way Our Lord is going to work and love in our lives is not going to be what we would have expected, which is why we need to be very careful not to put certain expectations upon Him. And it happens all the time; people say, “I never expected this from the Lord.” Exactly, that is why He did it – because you did not expect it – but also because it is exactly what you needed. Of course, we did not think that was what we needed and we would still protest that it is not what we needed, but in God’s mercy it is exactly what we needed. What we need to learn to do is to let go of the expectations, to let go of our preconceived ideas of how God should be working in our lives. We need simply to love Him, and we need to allow Him to love us. As it is in any good marriage, while the two people certainly get to know one another and they can anticipate one another’s needs and so on, every once in a while there is going to be some little surprise that is going to come up, something unexpected. Not something unexpected in the personality of the other individual, but rather the person knowing the needs, the wants, the desires of the beloved is certainly going to come up with things at unexpected moments, things that will take the other person by surprise in a positive way (and sometimes in a not so positive way, I suppose). But with the Lord it is always going to be positive, even though it does not always feel that way to us.
So that is the point we have to understand. When we are dealing with Jesus, what we can do is expect that He is going to love us, but we need to drop the expectations of how that love ought to be expressed, how that mercy is going to be revealed to us, because He is going to do that in very unexpected ways. We simply need to be in a relationship with Him, and we need to simply allow Him to love us. That is not as easy as it sounds. There is nothing that any of us wants more than to be able to be loved – and you are. You are loved infinitely and with an extraordinary love. The problem is that we do not believe it and we do not accept it because we put limits on the love of Our Lord and we put our own preconceived ideas onto the love of Our Lord. Whenever it is outside of the boundaries that we place on it – and love knows no boundaries – then we cannot accept it because it did not meet with our expectations.
The Lord is going to look at us today and say, “So what were you looking for? What did you go out to see? Whom were you seeking?” Remember, two thousand years ago the people had expectations regarding the Messiah and because Jesus did not meet their preconceived ideas they rejected Him, or they did not even notice Him. If we put preconceived ideas onto the Lord, we are not going to recognize Him either because He is not going to fit into the box. We need to know Who He is, and we do, therefore because we know Who He is, we need to let down the guard, we need to put aside all the preconceived ideas, and we need to simply love Him and allow Him to love us.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.