Wednesday January 26, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Hebrews 10:11-18) Gospel (St. Mark 4:1-20)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord speaks this parable about the sower and the seed, and He tells His disciples that He speaks in parables to fulfill what the prophet Isaiah had said: that they will look and see but not perceive, they will listen and hear but not understand. One wonders why it is that Our Lord would do this. Why did He not just come out plainly and state what it was that He was trying to tell them? Because they would not have listened. All we have to do is look at our own selves. How many times do we have to be told plainly exactly what the situation is and we refuse to listen because we do not want to hear it? It is a plain and simple fact. We do not want to hear it because we do not want to change. The Lord spoke in parables because if somebody really wanted to hear it they would have to ponder it, they would have to take it to prayer, they would have to work it through and be able to say, “What does this mean? How does this apply to me?” They would have to seek the answer from the Lord. And so the Lord makes very clear that they heard exactly what He said but they did not understand. They saw but they did not perceive because it was hidden, unless somebody was really looking for the truth.
It remains that way even for us. We have the explanation right there. We have the explanation of parable after parable, and still we hear but we do not understand, we see but we do not perceive. And if we are not hearing or understanding or perceiving, then we have to look at our own selves and ask why. Why would this be the case? It is precisely because we do not want to understand. We do not want to perceive because we know what it will require on the inside. It will require change and we do not like to change. Things have not changed in two thousand years; human nature is still human nature. The people back then did not want it; the people today do not want it.
We could say, “But we’re here at this hour of the morning, obviously we want it!” The people who gathered around Jesus were people who had faith. They were religious people and they wanted to hear what He had to say. But how many Christian people today do not want to hear the Gospel? They just want to hear pious pabulum; they want to hear niceties; they want to hear everybody say to them, “Jesus loves you; therefore, you don’t have to suffer. Jesus loves you; He wants you to be rich. Jesus loves you; you don’t have to change. Jesus loves you; you can go ahead and sin, you’re going to heaven anyway.” That is running rampant, and it has come right into the Catholic Church now. It is being preached in pulpit after pulpit, and good people who believe in the Lord are flocking to that stuff because they do not want to hear the Gospel. They want it easy.
The Cross is not easy. It wasn’t two thousand years ago, it isn’t today, and it never will be. If we want Christ without the Cross, if we want Christianity without the suffering, if we want the Gospel with no understanding and no perception, then we need to ask ourselves, “Why do I really want to be a Catholic?” This is a very, very serious point because it happens all too often. We like to go through the motions, but we do not want to be bothered. We want to be able to convince ourselves in our own conscience that we are doing well because we did this or that or the other thing, but the reality of the situation is that we do not really want to live the Gospel because of what it is going to require. So we really need to look at it and ask ourselves, “Do I really want to understand? Do I really want to perceive? Or do I just want to keep doing what I’ve been doing?” If we want to keep doing what we are doing, we are not going to grow.
If we want to be able to receive the Word and produce what Our Lord is asking, then we need to be willing to go deep. He made that very clear. The only ones that really grew up and produced fruit were the ones where the soil was rich and deep. We have to go deep into our hearts. We have to be willing to struggle with these things, to grapple with them and try to understand them and seek it out. It does not happen in just a couple of minutes; it sometimes takes hours, days, and weeks to be able to grasp these things. The question is how badly we really want to know. In our society, where everything is immediate gratification and everything is easy and you just push a button and get whatever you want, we fall into the same problem with prayer. “I go to prayer, I ask a question; if I don’t get an immediate answer, then I give up.” Is that what we do? Or are we willing to sit there and sit there and sit there and sit there…until finally the answer becomes clear? The Lord, in His mercy, looks at each one of us and says, “Do you really want to know? Then prove it. Prove that you really want it. Prove how much this means to you by really digging in, by really grappling with it, by going inside and trying to understand and trying to perceive.”
It will become very clear to us that the understanding and perception is only by the grace of God. It is not something that we are suddenly going to come to intellectually, but rather it is by the grace of God, Who will give us the insight, the perception, and the understanding. If we really, really want it, we have to make the effort. We are willing to do that for other things that we want. The material things that we want, we are willing to work hard and put away the money and so on. We are willing to do without certain other things in order to obtain something that we want. We are willing to travel long distances to get what we want. How much do we want Jesus? How much do we want the Gospel? How much do we really want to perceive and understand the truth? How much do we really want to change to be like Jesus Christ? That is what it really comes down to. If we are willing, we will not only see and look, we will not only listen and hear, but in the depths of our being – through the grace of God – we will understand and we will perceive the truth.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.