Friday March 30, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week in Lent
Reading (Wisdom 2:1a; 12-22) Gospel (St. John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30)
In both of the readings today, we see a similar pattern: People make judgments based on what they think they can see, or what they think they know, but they donít necessarily know the truth. Our Lord makes that point. He says, "So, you know where I come from, do you? The fact is, I did not come of Myself. I come from the one who has the right to send and Him you do not know." They think they have Him pigeon-holed, theyíve got Him exactly where they want Him, and they have finally figured Him out. The Lord says, "No, you havenít. You donít know who I am; you donít know where I come from; you donít know what I am about."
Yet, in the first reading we see the same thing. These wicked people, thinking to themselves about the just man, "Let us try his patience and push at him, after all he says that God is his father, God is going to take care of him and all these things will happen, therefore let us treat the person badly. Letís see if they are really the way they claim to be. Let us try their patience, letís do all these things to this individual and see what happens." At the end of the reading it says that they erred and their wickedness blinded them, for they knew not the counsels of God. So even though they are going through all these things - that this is the way God will deal with this person, because this is what the person says - their wickedness blinded them to the hidden counsels of God.
We need to be very careful in ourselves about our judgments of other people, because our own blindness will hide the hidden counsels of God from us as well. We also have to see it from the other side, the pattern is laid out. If we are serious about growth in the spiritual life and we are really going to try to do Godís will, weíre going to try to grow in holiness, weíre going to be virtuous, weíre going to really try to do what God wants us to do, then we see the pattern. It is all laid out in the first reading. There are people who will look at us and because the way we live will be different, they are immediately going to make judgments. They are going to try to cause us difficulty. But in the hidden counsels of God, that is a good thing. We donít like it when it happens. In our pride, we like to think: "Everybody should see how good and holy I am; they should really like me." No, when we are trying to be good and holy we irritate people because they donít like the way we live because we are different. We are wierd; we are strange; we are odd in their estimation. We try to live a good, holy life; therefore, we donít live like everyone else.
So people are going to persecute you if you try to live a good life. Itís not because God will simply demonstrate how he will deliver you from all this (which He will do), but it is because He wants us to grow in virtue. Itís the only way we are going to grow. If He just let us sit there by ourselves, thinking how wonderful and virtuous we are, not only will we not grow in virtue, but our pride will move us completely in the opposite direction. The Lord, in His mercy, allows some of these difficulties and struggles for us so that we can grow in virtue. So that our patience will improve and our virtue will increase. Without those difficulties, we have no way of knowing how much virtue we have. We find out very quickly how much we really have when the difficulties begin. All of a sudden, the smile is gone, we start to whine, we bite peopleís heads off, we get frustrated and angry, we start to complain... all the different things that happen. The pride needs to go quickly out the window. One minute, we are thinking how holy and wonderful we are and how everyone should notice this. The next minute, we need to go to confession because we have just fallen flat on our face.
So, God wants to develop a little humility; as well as patience, charity, meekness, and all the other things we need. All these are necessary; that is part of the hidden counsel of God. If we are going to grow in holiness, we need to understand that. This is the way the Lord will work in our lives. He will allow other people to treat us in a way that is not pleasant. Not so much for them, but for us. Not as a proof to them of our holiness (because that would only increase our pride), but as a proof to us of our need to continue to pray and to grow and as a means for growth in holiness. That is what the Lord desires for us. When we see our own failings and faults over and over again, we will not be judging others and fall into the trap. But in the meantime, we do. Until that humility grows to the point that we can truly be humble, when we no longer think of how holy and wonderful we are, and that everyone should notice all of this, then things will turn around for us. In the meanatime, we simply need to learn. We need to grow. We need to pray for humility. We need to pray for charity so we wonít judge others.
When the difficult times come, just recognize what God is doing. It is of the Lord, even though He may be using people who are wicked to try and help us in that way, it is God at work. It is because He loves us. It is because He wants us to become more like His Son, whom people did not know or understand. We do not know Him fully until we are willing to be crucified with Him. Only when we are with Him on the Cross can we say, "Now, I know Jesus Christ. Now I understand Him. I know where He comes from, I know where He went." Not knowing it in our head, but knowing it by experience and living it in our lives so that we become one with Him.
Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.