Tuesday February 15, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week of Lent
Reading (Isaiah 55:10-11) Gospel (St. Matthew 6:7-15)
Our Lord, in the Gospel reading today, teaches us the “Our Father.” This is the central point of His whole teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, which is the moral teaching of Our Lord laying out for us how we are to live. Everything in the Sermon on the Mount leads up to this point and returns from this point. So this is the single highlight of what the Lord wants us to understand in the way that we are supposed to live our lives.
The way that we are to live our lives is, number one, to make sure we keep God as holy. God is always holy in Himself, but what happens is within us, that is, we do not always keep Him holy. We use His Name in an irreverent manner, which goes directly against what the Lord teaches in the “Our Father.” It teaches us about our relationship with God, and then teaches us very clearly that if we are going to call God “Father” that we are also praying that His Will be done in us on earth as it is in heaven. In heaven, all the saints do is the Will of God. There is no discussion; there is no dialogue. There is no room for any kind of personal opinion because everyone is perfectly united in doing God’s Will, not as a matter of force but as a matter of freedom. They have chosen perfect freedom because perfect freedom is choosing to do the Will of God, and that is exactly what we are praying for: that God’s Will be done in our lives. Then, of course, we know what happens is that we walk away and we do not do His Will, we do not keep God holy, which is why we do not follow the rest of the “Our Father” either. Then when it comes to the end of it, Our Lord tells us we have to forgive, and that if we do not forgive, we are not going to be forgiven.
Now in the first reading, God says that He sends His Word to the earth and it will not return to Him void but it will achieve the purpose for which He sent it. This, of course, is seen most perfectly in Jesus, Who is the Word of God Who came into this world and did the Will of God perfectly and did not return until He had achieved the purpose for which He was sent. Jesus spoke these words and they will not return void. No one is going to return to the Father unless they are willing to do what the Word of God says they are to do. Think about what Our Lord told us. Highlighting the point about forgiveness, if we will not forgive, our heavenly Father will not forgive us; and if we are not forgiven, we cannot go to heaven. So if the Word of God is going to achieve its purpose in us, it means that we have to make a free choice to do God’s Will, which is exactly what every single person in heaven has done. They have all chosen to do the Will of God, and now they do it perfectly and eternally.
But before we are ever going to do it that way, we have to choose it here. Not to give it lip service, but to live it, to put it into practice, to look very carefully at what it is that we are asking of God in our prayer and to put it into practice in our lives. It is so easy because we pray the “Our Father” so many times – every day at Mass, several times a day in the Rosary, and how many other times throughout the day we might pray it – and it just pops off of our lips like there is no big deal. We pay little or no attention to what we are actually saying. Take time and really dig into this prayer. Spend several hours praying the “Our Father,” not meaning saying the words over and over and over again, but say the “Our Father” once and spend several hours doing it. Really ponder in your heart what these words mean and how they are going to affect our lives, and ask the question, “Am I living this? This is what I’m praying for. This is what I’m saying. Do I really mean it? Am I doing it?”
These are the things that we have to look at. The Lord says, Don’t rattle on like the pagans. Do not just keep repeating the same words over and over again that have no meaning to you, but really pray them. And then look at your own life in comparison to the words that you are praying. That is the way we have to look at this prayer. If we are really serious and intent on doing the Will of God, then all the promises that are made will be ours – eternal life will be ours, we will be delivered from the evil one, God will provide everything that we need. The most wonderful thing in this regard is that even in us the Will of God will be done here, and His word which He sent will not return to Him void, but in our lives it will achieve the purpose for which it was sent, which is to make us saints and to bring us to heaven.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.