Thursday July 26, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Sirach 44:1, 10-15) Gospel (St. Matthew 13:16-17)
As we celebrate today the feast of Saints Joachim and Ann, we see the critical importance of the role of parents because these are the people that God raised up to bring Our Lady into the world, to raise her, to teach her, and to prepare her soul so that she would be able to be the Mother of God. They did not know, when they were raising her, that she was going to be the mother of the Messiah; yet, at the same time, there was the expectation. They knew the family from which she would come; they knew that it would be from the tribe of Judah. They knew that they were from that tribe; but certainly, they were just like any of us: We would not expect that God would choose us for such a task. Saints Joachim and Ann certainly would not have anticipated that, either. Nowhere were they told that their little daughter was going to be the Mother of God.
We see, though, the importance of the fact that from the time Our Lady was just a little, tiny baby she had the example and the teaching of two holy parents. They taught her the prayers and the traditions of the Jewish people, and they taught her to love God. Obviously, Our Lady had an abundance of God's grace to help her; but nonetheless, it was her parents' task as well.
And for all of those who came before, it is just as we heard in the Gospel: "Many a prophet and many a saint longed to see what you see, but did not see it; and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it." Now, one could ask, "Why did God choose Ann and Joachim? Why did He not choose some of these other holy people that have lived throughout history? Why was it not one of the prophets or why was it not one of the Old Testament saints?" We do not know the answer to that other than to say, "It is God's choice." He will choose whom He wills at the time that is right, as it is said of Jesus: "In the fullness of time God sent His Son." All we can say in this case is that in the fullness of time God sent the Lord's mother. Therefore, God sent the two people that He chose to be her parents.
At the same time, we can look at all the ancestors of Our Lady and the necessity of all of them. Sometimes, it may be easy for parents to think that they are just on a treadmill, running and running; nothing ever seems to get accomplished, it is always the same thing: You get up and run every day, you go to bed, then get up the next day and do the whole thing over again. It is providing three meals a day, cleaning a house, going off to work, all these things. And what good is it doing? It is doing the greatest good in the entire world because it is serving and forming the consciences of human persons for the next generation and for generations following that. The work of parents is absolutely critical to society and to the Church. The work that God has chosen for the majority of Christian people is to be married and, thereby, to be parents.
So, when you look at the vocation, we can see the absolute dignity of it when we take it to an extreme and look at the case of Saints Ann and Joachim. We can see the necessity of it there because we say, "Well, they had to bring Our Lady into the world, they had to form her, they had to guide her and teach her." We can see the critical importance of parents when we see it in that light.
You might look at it and say, "My child is not Mary or Jesus, so is it as important?" The answer is "yes." When it comes to equality of persons, your children are radically equal with Our Lady in their humanness. They are just as important in God's eyes. In the work of salvation, God chose Our Lady to be the mother of His Son; He has chosen you and your children for His work, as well. Just because your daughter will not be the Mother of God and your grandchild will not be the Messiah does not make it any less important. (You can be grateful for that, actually. Imagine what it would be like to have the responsibility of raising the Mother of God and being grandparents of God Himself. It is an awesome thing, but it is a rather frightening thing at the same time.)
What God wants of your children and your grandchildren, we do not know; but He has chosen you as parents to be part of this mystery, of this work which is His. He has chosen you to accomplish that and do not ever, for one split second, think that this is a worthless endeavor or that this is somehow a lower kind of thing or that it is less than something else. It is not. It is a vocation that is filled with dignity and blessings and it is critically important. We need to be able to see that. We can look at Ann and Joachim and see the importance of their role as parents of Our Lady. Those of you, who are parents, ponder that. Look at it from that point of view. Look at it from the point of view of Our Lady and Saint Joseph, and the importance of their role. Absolutely everything that you can say about them you can bring back to yourself and you can say the same - the only difference is the role that your children are called to perform in God's Providence; otherwise, everything is the same. The importance of your task is exactly the same as the importance of Saints Ann and Joachim. It can never be undermined and it can never be done away with.
So praise God for parents and for grandparents because that task is so critical. It is the task of prayer, the task of being an example, and grandparents have to be doing this as well. The wonderful thing of being a parent is that it never ends - ever; even in Heaven, you are still going to be a parent; even in Heaven, you will be praying for your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren and so on. Only when we get to Heaven will we be able to see God's Providence in why He chose you for this task of being a parent; in why He chose your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren for what He is going to do with them; and you will know that you have been chosen to be a part of God's providential work for the salvation of the world.
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.