We Cannot Do This Alone
Friday January 14, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Hebrews 4:1-5, 11) Gospel (St. Mark 2:1-12)
Saint Paul, in the first reading today, speaks about the rest that God entered into on the seventh day of creation and tells us, as the Psalmist would say, that this generation (speaking of the people out in the desert), because their hearts had gone astray, would never enter into His rest. We have to remember that these were the chosen people. These are the people that God brought out of Egypt with strong hand and outstretched arm, as Scripture says, with all of the miracles and all of the extraordinary events that took place; and yet he said that not one of them would enter into His rest because of their disobedience.
More than that, Saint Paul tells us that His works were accomplished at the foundation of the world, that God knew from all eternity exactly what was going to happen. Even though this was a wayward people, He still accomplished all of those miracles for them knowing fully well that they were going to go astray, that none of them were going to be faithful to Him. We need also to keep in mind, then, that God knew from the foundation of the world that the present situation would be going on, that the evil in the world was going to be happening around us. We need to remember also that He specifically created us in this time for a reason, and He Who is faithful will give the grace necessary for us to be faithful to Him.
So the choice is entirely ours. The people of Israel out in the desert had the grace to do God’s Will, but they chose to rebel against Him. Now, at this point, we are not quite at the point where we would be rebelling against God. Remember what happened out in the desert. The people wandered around out there, they had no food, they had no water, they had little children, they were starving, they were dehydrated, and they grumbled against God. When things get really bad, chances are that we might do the same. It was the disobedience over and over and over again of these people that brought about the condemnation that they would not enter into God’s rest.
We are going to see some very difficult things; yet, at the same time, just like the people in the Gospel, we are going to see some extraordinary things. We will all one day be sitting back, saying, “We have never seen anything like this,” for the good as well as for the ill. So we need to make sure, as Saint Paul tells us, that we strive to enter into that rest, that no one may fall after the same example of disobedience. This is what is being placed before us: the example of a disobedient people who saw extraordinary things that have never been seen since on the face of the earth, and still their hearts went astray. They did not trust God and they grumbled against Him.
We know our own weakness well. We know how easily we can fall into the exact same trap. Given the wimpy society in which we live, it has gotten to the point just about that if we scratch our finger we complain against God. What is going to happen when things get really bad? How much faith is the Son of Man going to find? Will He find any at all? We need to realize that we are exceedingly weak. We need to realize that we can fall very easily. And we need to realize that we cannot do this by ourselves. We need to remember also that God is not going to make it easy for us. The grace is going to be there, but it is not going to be easy. So let us not deceive ourselves into thinking, “Well, because I believe in Jesus either I’m going to be raptured out of here,” – which is nonsense! – “or nothing is going to happen to me.” That is not true. It is like saying that because He was Jesus nothing was going to happen to Him either. Well, that did not occur either.
It is going to get very bad. There is only one way, and it is the One Who called Himself “The Way”. If we are not on that Way, then we are going to be wandering in the desert and we are going to grumble against God. It keeps coming back to the exact same thing. If we do not pray – and I mean pray; not say some prayers, I mean pray – if we are not deeply rooted in prayer, focused solely on Jesus Christ, we will not make it. Saint Paul makes that very clear, and he lays out to the people two thousand years ago how easily they can fall into the same example of disobedience, these people who had also seen extraordinary things: the miracles of the apostles, the miracle of Pentecost. These people were so close to the Resurrection, and Saint Paul is warning them that they too can fall astray so easily. We must not be arrogant and think we are not going to be tested, or even worse, “It’s no problem because I can handle it.” No, we cannot. Unless we are cooperating completely with the grace of God, we will not be able to handle it.
So that is the point. We are like the paralytic lying on that mat, and the only way we are going to get up and walk is if Jesus tells us to. That is what we have to keep in mind: We cannot do this alone. We cannot do it by our own strength or by our own ability. There is only one way, and that way is Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.