Tuesday June 26, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Genesis 13:2, 5-18)) Gospel (St. Matthew 7:6, 12-14)
The Lord tells us, in the Gospel reading, to enter through the narrow gate. He tells us that the way that leads to condemnation is wide, it is clear, and many choose it. If you think about the first reading today and the way that Lot made his decision, it was completely selfish. In other words, he went up the mountain, he looked about, and he thought about his flocks and said, "This is the area that is watered." He left Abraham what he thought would be the lesser of the land. Abraham could take all of his stuff to the area of the land that was considered less desirable. Yet, at the same time, it was God who blessed Abraham because Abraham was willing to say to Lot (even though the promises were made to Abraham), "You choose. If you want to take what is to the left, I will go to the right. If you want to go to the right, I will take what is to the left." It did not matter. Abraham was leaving it wide open for Lot. Then Lot made a selfish decision. You can see the selflessness of Abraham on the one hand, and the selfishness of Lot on the other. Of course, we will hear more of the story as the days go along, but we know how it worked out. In fact, we are told already. Lot made his dwelling near Sodom in an area where it was completely sinful - that is where he chose to live. Even though Lot himself was not filled with sin and was not involved with the sin of Sodom; nonetheless, it was there that, for some reason, he was attracted. And it was there that he chose to settle.
You can see how, if we are selfish, we cloud our own thinking so that the way that is going to lead in the wrong direction seems to be clear. On the natural level, it is. But what happens is that in the soul it is not. We cloud ourselves, it is like we are living in a fog when we choose to walk that way. That is part of the reason why we look at it and say, "Well, look how clear it is. I am having trouble seeing anything else but at least I can see clearly where the road is." But if it is going to lead you the wrong direction, it is not where you want to be. What we need is trust in the Lord. If we get ourselves onto the right path, He will clear the fog, He will take the clouds away and we will be able to see clearly so that we can walk the narrow and rough path.
Now we know that if we are going to try to walk the rough path, in our weakness, we may trip and fall a few times along the way. We do not like that idea much, either. We do not like the humiliation that comes from it, we do not like the smallness of it. Yet, if we have clarity of thought and know that this is the way that leads to life, then we need to look at it from a different perspective and say, "If this is the way of the Lord, then even if it is going to be humbling, even if it is going to be difficult, even if I am going to fall down and skin my knee a few times, it does not matter because the Lord will give me the grace to get back up. He will give me the grace to keep walking and to keep going up." That is what we need.
If we look at it on the natural level, using the analogy of the first reading, we would be standing there looking at it and saying, "Oh, but the way that leads directly to hell is green and it is watered nicely. Just think how well off I would be if I walked that path! The other way looks like a desert. What am I going to do with my livestock? What am I going to do with all my stuff? I do not want to walk out in the desert." Yet, the way that leads to God is precisely that way - the way that leads through the desert. We will trust that God will provide water and feed for the livestock and that He will give us everything that we need.
That is the lesson that we need to learn. If the way looks so smooth, so easy, and so well-watered, it may not be God's Will. We need to pray before we make a decision. Do not make a decision based on the natural order, on what looks to be the easiest and the smoothest, because that may lead us right into condemnation. We need to make the choice based on God's Will and, therefore, based on prayer. Whatever way we choose to go, we want it to be God's way. And we know that if it is God's way it is normally going to be rough and it is going to be narrow, but it will be the way that leads to life.
Note: Father Altier does not write 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.