Monday July 18, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Exodus 14:5-18) Gospel (St. Matthew 12:38-42)
When Our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading that no sign is going to be given to this generation, the people of Israel had only to look, not only at all the things Our Lord Himself was doing in their day, but especially at all the things God had done for the Israelites throughout history, one of which, and the greatest perhaps, is what we heard today in the reading. The people of Israel had been enslaved for 430 years in Egypt, and now God was going to free His people. But the way that He was going to free them was not in a way that anyone would have expected. God has them wander around in the desert so it looks like they are completely lost, and then has Pharaoh hook up all of his chariots and all of his army and go in pursuit of the Israelites. They were completely trapped. We heard the people as they complained against God and Moses: "Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Weren't there any burial sites in Egypt for us? Why did you have to bring us out here to die in the desert?" And then the worst of all: "It would be better for us to be slaves of the Egyptians than it would to die out here." They would rather go back to their slavery.
In this particular case, as so many of the saints have pointed out, the Egyptians were symbolic of sin, and Pharaoh of Satan. So here are these people who are saying, in essence, "It would be better for us to go back to sin, because trying to live the way of God is not an easy thing. He's got us backed into a corner and it looks like there is no hope." I suspect we have all been in that situation probably more than once. Yet, just like with the people of Israel, it is a fascinating thing to watch how God simply opens something up and springs you right out of the situation that you found yourself in, that minutes before seemed utterly hopeless. Of course, it usually does not take just minutes. Like the Israelites, they had to camp there overnight, they had to sit there with the Egyptians breathing down their neck, and then God opened the Red Sea. Then they had to have the faith that if they walked out into the midst of the sea, like a wall to the right and to the left, that it was not going to collapse upon them. So too with us.
All it requires is trust. There are so many signs in our everyday life of the Lord's working if we would only pay attention. But then it comes to some great and extraordinary thing, and we want a sign. The Lord is going to say, "No, I'm working signs for you all the time. You don't need anything more." Instead, what He is going to do is turn it the other way; He is going to look at us and say, "I'm going to ask something of you – that is, faith and trust." And we say, "No, if You give me a sign then I'll have faith." He will say, "No, if you have a sign, it wouldn't require any faith. I'm asking you to have faith in Me and trust in Me that I will take care of things." That is all He is going to ask. He is going to require that we walk by faith. We do not like that; we want to walk by sight; we want to walk with something that is tangible. The Lord, however, is not tangible. Therefore, He is going to ask simply that we would make this complete act of faith in Him and trust Him completely. That is what He is looking for.
The signs are all around us, so we do not need anything more, as far as signs from God go. What we need is faith, what we need is trust, and to be able to rely on the Lord completely, to know that He has made the promises and He Who has made the promises is trustworthy.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.