Wednesday June 27, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Genesis15:1-12, 17-18) Gospel (St. Matthew 7:15-20)
Our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading that we can tell a tree by its fruit. Of course, He is talking about each one of us and about any other person who will come and try to present himself or herself in a certain way. What He is telling us is that we can watch the way the person lives, the way they act, and we can make some determinations along those lines. That is, can we trust what this person is saying and how Christian are they, really? We know, of course, that we are all sinful and we are going to fail; so it is not a matter of whether the person lives a life of perfection. If that were the case, none of us would be considered very righteous. But it is a question of a more general principle. That is, is the person trying to live a good and upright life? Is the example that the person is giving a good one? Can we trust what this person is telling us because we can also see what is being acted upon, how the person is living their life?
At the same time, when we apply this to ourselves, we need to be very cautious because what can happen is we will look at this and say, "If this is the case, I need to be living it completely, right now." That is what we would all like to be doing, but it does not happen quite that way. It is a steady growth in holiness that we have to be about. We need to realize that the goal is up the road and we need to persevere in this.
If we look at the first reading, it is a story that we know so well: God talking to Abram and making certain promises about the fact that his descendants will have this land to possess and he will have an heir of his own. Abram believed and God, it says, credited it to him as righteousness. When we look at the promises of God, and we say, "Yes, we believe" that too will be credited to us as righteousness. Then we get frustrated, just like Abram did, and we say, "But, Lord, You have not provided it. How am I supposed to continue to trust in Your promise when You have not done what You said You were going to do?" Remember with Abram, that this happened when he was around 75 or 80 years old, and Isaac was not born until he was 100. God told Abram that he was going to bring him into the land that he would possess and his descendants after him, and Abram never possessed it; only his descendants, hundreds of years later, really possessed the land. God's promises are complete, they are true, and He is faithful to them but He is going to require faith on our part. It is not going to be an immediate thing.
We have to continue to pray. We have to persevere in prayer, just like Abram. He cuts up these animals and we would expect that God is going to make this covenant with him right at that moment. He cuts up the animals and sits there waiting. And he waits and waits and waits. He has to sit there and pray the entire day before God finally makes the covenant with him after it is dark. We have some fine examples in that story for each one of us of the need for perseverance, of the need for real faith. If we are going to say "yes" that we believe God, then we need to continue to believe it - even when it does not seem that it is happening, even when it does not seem that what we are asking for or what has been promised is coming about. Continue to pray and continue to have faith because God is faithful to every one of His promises. They all will be fulfilled in us, if we are faithful. But they will happen in God's time, not in our time.
We see from Abram that we need to continue to do what is right. The Lord makes clear that it is only in doing what is right, over and over again for the long haul, that we are going to prove ourselves. "You can know a tree by its fruit," He tells us. So we have to bear good fruit, not only in the immediate time because we think we are going to get something from God, but in the long haul because we are going to show that we believe, that we are faithful, and that we will persevere in prayer and in good works.
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.