Monday July 30, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Exodus 32:15-24, 30-34) Gospel (St. Matthew 13:31-35)
In the readings this morning there are several things that we see. First of all, Our Lord tells us that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. He says it is the smallest seed of all, just a tiny little thing. "Yet," He says, "when it becomes fully-grown it is like a tree, which the birds can come and build their nests in." So, we see that what God has planted within us is something that is very tiny.
What we need to do is work with that: water it, prepare it, help it, and do whatever we need to do to make this plant grow. Or it is like the yeast He talks about that the woman kneads into the dough and it makes the entire mass rise. That little tiny seed that God has placed within us, as it begins to grow, begins to change our entire being. It continually takes over like the yeast in the dough. It does not just have a little bit of an effect, but it affects the entire mass of dough. So too, the Kingdom of God within affects the entire person. Every part of our being needs to be affected by it.
Unfortunately, many of us try to keep the Kingdom of God in a little box. We open up the little box when we go to Mass or when we pray, and then we close it up and think we can carry on the rest of our life in a secular manner. It cannot be that way. We need to allow it to take over entirely. The problem is, we see, that not only is the Kingdom of God that way, but the evil is the same. The difference is that the evil, I think, is a very large seed and it grows very quickly; whereas, the Kingdom of God grows rather slowly.
We see that in the first reading when the people get the idea of worshiping the golden calf. First of all, they are totally mixed up. They are looking for Moses, who led them out of Egypt, when it was God who led them out of Egypt. In fact, so clear was it that there was the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire that went before them. They are looking to a human being as the one they are going to follow instead of following God. You can see how the devil got them mixed up.
Then they decide that they need a God to follow. You can see, first of all, that they are putting their faith in a human being and now they want some kind of a molten god instead of the God who had already revealed Himself to them. This little idea that they get, all of a sudden, grows very quickly and it turns into the golden calf and they are all bowing down and worshiping the thing.
If we would follow this through, we would see that this is the reason why the people, particularly the priest, had to offer a bull for his own sin. You see what Moses did: He ground it up and the very thing that the people were worshiping, he made them drink to be able to show that this is no god; it is just a piece of nothing; it is dust; it is worthless.
We also see that for those in whom the Kingdom of God is blossoming fully, as it was in Moses, there is the work of mediation. Moses could look at the people and say, "You have committed a grave sin, but I will go before the Lord and I will see if I can do something for you." That is precisely what each one of us can do, as well. The Lord is the mediator, the only mediator between God and man, but there is a secondary type of mediation completely dependent on Him. Each one of us can share in that work of redemption and we can intercede for others. We can share in the work of Our Lord's mediation and pray for others; that is precisely what the Lord asks of each one of us.
That, actually, is part of the watering and the tilling of the seed to make the plant grow bigger, to make it completely take over our being, which is exactly what we want. We do not want to keep trimming it down so that it is like a little tiny bush that we will not let grow, but we want it to take over everything. We do that through prayer and through good works. Part of that is mediation: to pray for those who have wandered from the Lord, to pray for those who do not know the Lord, to pray for greater holiness in those who do know the Lord, and so on.
It is by doing these sorts of things that the work of charity, the work of mediation and intercession will cause that seed to grow. Then the Kingdom of God can become more and more the dominant force within our lives until it takes over our entire being.
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.