Tuesday December 6, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Advent
Reading (Isaiah 40:1-11) Gospel (St. Matthew 18:12-14)
In the first reading today, the prophet Isaiah hears a voice that tells him to cry out, and when he asks, “What shall I cry out,” the answer comes: All flesh is grass, and all their glory like the flower of the field. Then it goes on to tell him how the grass is going to wilt and the flowers are going to fade, but that the Word of God stands forever. Now as we just simply look at our own selves day by day, we, of course, recognize that we get older. In America, we seem to have quite a problem with thinking that we are supposed to look like teenage kids even when we are seventy years old, but the reality is we get older. We start to fade; we start to wilt, if you will. Praise God, because if we could continue to make ourselves think that we were young and invincible, we would not ever want to go home. We would want to stay here instead of go to heaven, which is the dumbest thing anybody could ever want to do. But, unfortunately, because we do not know what heaven is and we know what we have here, we get caught in this idea of what life is about and we do not want anything else; or, at least, we are afraid of what might be awaiting us.
But when we think about these words, about how all of us are going to wilt and pass away, we also then couple that with the Gospel, because the words we are told through Isaiah were that the Word of God stands forever. And what does the Word of God say? That He does not desire for any of these little ones to be lost. So if we are willing to allow ourselves to be small then we can be saved.
Now, once again, we see the importance of this point of getting older and getting weaker. When we are young and we think that we are so strong, we can think that we do not really need God. “I can do this all by myself.” A pretty foolish thought, but it is probably the reality that most people deal with. But when we know that we cannot do it by ourselves then we are going to look to somebody beyond us. And so if we get to the point where we realize that we are no longer a kid and we cannot quite do the things we used to do, suddenly we realize that we are really a little one, that we are small, that we are pretty insignificant, even though we used to like to think about how important and significant we were (which we never really were, but that is what we liked to convince ourselves of). Suddenly, we realize just how small and insignificant we are.
It is when we are small and insignificant that we have the greatest significance with God, because He is the One Who said that He does not will for any of these little ones to be lost. As long as we are willing to be a little one, just a little lamb in the Lord’s flock, then we are going to be fine. But remember what He said through the prophet Ezekiel: The strong and the sleek He will destroy, because they do not need a shepherd (so they think!). They will do it their own way; they do not have to follow God. But the little ones, the weak ones, they are the ones who recognize that they need somebody to protect them, that they need somebody who is going to be strong for them, that they need a shepherd. As long as we are willing to be the little lamb, to be weak, to be vulnerable, then we have a Shepherd Who is going to protect us, to put us up on His shoulders, to walk with us, and to bring us safely home, because the Word of God stands forever and the Word of God says that He does not will for any of the little ones to be lost.
So we have the key to salvation: to be little, to not think ourselves too great, to be dependent on God, to follow Him, and to be obedient to Him. That is what it is all about. If we allow ourselves to be small then the Lord can do great things. If we think ourselves to be great then God can only use us for little things because we get in the way. So if we are willing to do it His way then the way to salvation is going to be clear, because we will follow the Shepherd, we will listen to His voice, we will do what He asks us to do, and we will therefore give Him the greatest glory and save our souls.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.