Monday July 23, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Exodus 14:5-18) Gospel (St. Matthew 12:38-42)
We hear these words in the Gospel again that the people want a sign. The Lord says, "An evil age seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it." The whole point of this is simply to say that they are not interested in faith. They already know what the truth is, but they have chosen to reject it. In that choice to reject the truth, what they look for are extraordinary things. And even if extraordinary things were worked, they would not put any faith in the individual anyway. All they want is to be entertained.
If we look around our society, which has in essence rejected God, we see the exact same thing. We see that what they want is simply to be entertained. It is the same point. The Lord is not going to do extraordinary things right now. Actually, if you look around, He is doing extraordinary things, but the fact is most people do not see it because they do not want to see it. What they want to see are miracles; they want to see big impressive things. The Lord is doing extraordinary work, but it is being done in a very subtle way. So, for those with faith, what we need to do is simply keep our focus on the Lord - and keep it always on the Lord.
If we look at the first reading, we see the Israelites fleeing from the Egyptians. When they look up and see the Egyptians coming at them, rather than trusting in God, the first thing they do is begin to scream, panic, and cry. Then they even begin to condemn Moses: "Why did you bring us out here into this desert? Didnít we tell you that there were enough burial places in Egypt? We didn't have to come out here to die!" All these things are a lack of faith.
I was listening to a tape of this evangelical guy who was bringing some Bibles into a communist country. He said that the person in front of him got arrested because there was something in a lady's purse and they just ripped this poor woman to shreds. Then, he is going through with his case of Bibles and he is panicking at this point, thinking, "Oh, I am going to spend years in a communist prison now for bringing these things in!" And the guard comes over and just waves him through. He says, "I started praising God! Then the Lord said, 'Right song, wrong side.' In other words, 'You should have been praising Me on the other side, rather than crying, screaming out, and getting all upset'." It is something we need to learn. It is the point that the Israelites needed to learn: They needed simply to praise God.
God's work is going to be done in us and in the world. When we look at the world today and see things gone astray, we begin to panic. We need to push all that aside. We need to put our faith in God. We need to know that He is at work. He is doing His work and we need to praise Him. Certainly, we need to pray for things that we see going on; but we need to praise Him for all things, knowing that all things are part of His Divine Providence. He will work all of this out in a way that is beyond our imagination. That is why He is allowing things to get so bad; no one will be able to suggest that this was humanly accomplished because it is not possible any longer. Only God is going to be able to do it and He will do it in a most wonderful way. But those who have no faith will totally ignore the sign anyway.
Now, having said that, today our President is meeting with the Holy Father. You can be guaranteed that the Holy Father is going to tell the President all about stem cell research and the killing of little embryos in order to make human parts. So, our part is to pray, to make sure that we are praying that the President will have the grace to withstand all the pressure being put upon him and uphold the promise that he made in the campaign and not allow federal funds to be given to the destruction of human embryos. We also need to pray that he will go a step further. It is not enough to withhold federal funding - he needs to outlaw it. Right now, he is waffling on this whole thing. He is not sure whether the federal government should give money to this. What he is allowing is that if it is private it is okay - and it is not. We need to make sure that our prayer is that this will be abolished entirely - not only that federal funds will be withheld, but that all research on embryonic stem cells will be ended.
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.