Friday July 1, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Genesis 23:1-4, 19; 24:1-8, 62-67)
Gospel (St. Matthew 9:9-13)
In the Gospel reading, we hear Our Lord looking at Matthew the tax collector and simply saying to him, Follow Me, and Matthew gets up from his tax collector’s post and follows Our Lord. He then brings together all of his tax collector friends and they have dinner. At that dinner, a whole group of sinners is able to hear the words of the Lord, and we trust that like Matthew they too had a conversion of their lives.
But when we combine this with what we heard in the first reading – Abraham sending his servant to find a wife for his son – when the servant asks, “What if the woman will not follow me back to this land? Should I take your son back to the land from which you came?” Abraham says, “Never take my son back to that land!” That is exactly what we need to be able to see for ourselves. Our Lord in His mercy has called each one of us to Himself, in those simple words to Matthew: Follow Me, or whatever manner it is that he has touched our hearts and called us to Himself. But when we look back to where we came from, we have to have the exact same attitude as Abraham. He was now in the Promised Land, and his son was never to leave the Promised Land. Thus, Abraham gave the order never to take his son back to the land from which he had come.
And so with us, if we ever in a moment of weakness look back at where we came from – because we all know that as we sit here in the promised land that there are lots of sufferings, problems, and difficulties of a variety of kinds, and sometimes we are tempted to look back and think, “How wonderful it was way back then when I was immersed up to my eyeballs in sin. Wasn’t that a good time!” – all that we can say is exactly what Abraham said and what our heavenly Father would say right now for each of us: “Never take my son or my daughter back to that land from which they came.” Never leave the Promised Land and go back to where you once were. It may be that there were some things from the old time in your life that actually had some good memories, but there are lots of things that were not good. And we are not to place ourselves back in a situation where we might find a little, tiny bit of good (maybe!) by placing ourselves into temptation. We need to avoid it at all costs. That is exactly what Abraham knew with regard to his son Isaac, that if he was taken back to the land from which Abraham had come he would be leaving the land of promise.
We too have a land of promise, and that is the path upon which we have placed our feet. We are never to go back to where we have been, but only to move forward. It does not matter what kinds of problems or difficulties we may have to face, we can never look back because we know our own weakness well enough and we know that if we start looking back we very well might be tempted to go back where we have come from – which would be the most foolish thing that we ever in our lives have done.
So we need to learn. We have the Physician of our soul because we are sick, and therefore we need to follow, we need to go where Jesus is. We know that if we are left on our own exactly what we are going to get ourselves into, and we cannot do it. We need to reject completely where we have come from. We need to put that completely aside and never ever go back there. Once we have found the Physician of our souls, we need to follow Him and we need to be with Him wherever He is. Even if in His mercy now He has made us righteous because our sins are forgiven, we all know fully well that the minute we walk away from Him we are going to be right back into our own sinful pattern. Left on our own, we are lost. But with Him, all the promises He has made will be fulfilled. So we need to keep looking forward, we need to stay with Jesus, and we must never ever go back to the land from which we came.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.