Monday July 9, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Genesis 28:10-22a) Gospel (St. Matthew 9:18-26)
In the readings today, we see the faith of these two individuals who came to Our Lord, faith that brings them to ask if He would raise someone from the dead. If you think about just what that means, would we ever expect that somebody would actually be able to bring someone back from the dead? That is what this synagogue leader had done. He went to Jesus, told Him that his daughter had died and asked Him to come and lay hands on her so she would come back to life. What amazing, astounding faith! The same with this woman who comes up behind Him and thinks, "If only I can touch the tassel of His cloak, then I will be healed!" That faith was enough to heal her.
We need to look at these examples and ask ourselves about our own faith. Most of us struggle with little things. We do not even have to worry about whether we believe that somebody will be able to be raised from the dead or healed of an illness because most of us cannot even come close to enough faith for that. We struggle with basic questions sometimes. Does God really exist? Is Jesus really present in the Blessed Sacrament? How many other questions do we deal with? So, it is difficult to think that we would have enough faith to be able to say, "If only I could touch the tassel of His cloak."
Think what happens every single day: We receive Him into ourselves. We do not touch the tassel of His cloak, we get His whole Being, His entire Person! And, so often, we walk away untouched and unchanged. That is the real tragedy. We need to ask ourselves why. If this woman can touch the tassel of His cloak and have her entire body healed, if He can lay hands on somebody and she is raised from the dead, and then we come to the Lord and receive His entire Person into ourselves and walk out unchanged, in essence, why? Is it, perhaps, because we really do not have enough faith that the Lord is going to do what He promised? Is it because those promises seem too glorious for us and we do not think it is possible that it is going to happen? "Maybe in a saint it will happen, but not in me." A saint did not become a saint by not having that kind of faith. We need to have the same thing.
It is like Jacob, when we see him in the first reading today. Remember that we have seen God make this covenant with Abraham. He passed between the animals and made the covenant with Isaac, so you think this has been passed down. God, now, has to appear to Jacob. And Jacob says, "If the Lord protects me and if I come back and if I have enough food and if…" It is all these tests. The Lord said to him, "I will give you this land. You and your descendants will be blessed. They will be like the dust of the earth." All these things are going to happen. And what does he do? He walks away doubting: "Well, we will see. If the Lord brings me back, then He will be my God." Nonsense. We cannot play games like that with God. We either have faith or we do not. We do not put God to the test. On one level, he had faith. He set up the stone and called the place Bethel, which means "the house of God." Yet, at the same time, he is going to doubt and waver. He is going to put God to the test to see if He is actually going to fulfill what He has promised and that He would actually protect him.
Is not that the way most of us are? We are just not sure. So we doubt. We are afraid, sometimes, to put one foot of faith in front of the other because we really are not sure that God is going to do what He has promised. Consequently, God can do very little within us. Just like when He went to Nazareth, He could do nothing but heal a couple of people, so distressed was He by their lack of faith.
What about us? We claim to have faith in Jesus, we are touched by Him every day, and yet, internally we are not healed. Perhaps we have to look at the question of our own faith. How deeply do we believe? How convinced are we of His word? How much do we really trust Him? Those are the questions we need to look at, to ask seriously in the depths of our hearts. If we walk out of here untouched by Jesus Christ, there is no fault on His part - that only leaves one. How deep is our faith in Jesus Christ?
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.