Tuesday August 14, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Deuteronomy 31:1-8) Gospel (St. Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14)
In the Gospel reading today, when the disciples ask the Lord who is of greatest importance in the Kingdom, He tells them very clearly that we need to make ourselves like children. We need to become lowly. We need to trust. We need to follow and we need to allow the Lord to lead. This is exactly what Moses told the people of Israel, as they were about to cross over into the Promised Land: "It is the Lord, your God, who goes before you; He will never fail you or forsake you."
Even though we hear those words, the tragedy for most of us is that we do not really believe them. In theory, we believe them; but in practice, we do not because as soon as we try to follow the Lord wherever He is going to lead, we automatically try to pull things back to ourselves. We say things like: "This does not make sense! How could it be this way? We should not go that direction. I should be doing something different. This cannot be what the Lord wants!"
Remember when He led the people in the desert, He led them in such a way that the Egyptians thought they were just wandering aimlessly in the desert. If you would have been among those Israelites, you would have said, "Why didn't we go this direction or that direction? This is foolish! We are just wandering around in the desert. First we went this way, now down here, now back up, and now we are stuck out here with nothing."
We can look at it and say, "Well, God allowed that so the Egyptians thought they were wandering aimlessly in the desert. He also allowed it so that they used up all their provisions of bread and water and they had to rely on the Lord. He was going to open the Red Sea, He was going to provide manna, He was going to provide water from the rock, and all the different things He was going to do that He knew about." At the time, the people, of course, did not know that and they had to trust; but they did not. They constantly complained against God and Moses. They did not trust. They did not want to follow the Lord. They did not want to be obedient to His commandments. So over and over, they ran into trouble.
Human nature has not changed and we do the exact same thing. God tries to show us where we are supposed to go and we kick and scream and complain because it does not make sense to us. We do not see how this could possibly be what the Lord wants. Then, we get ourselves into trouble: We try to take control of the situation. If the Israelites had taken control of the situation (which they tried to do but God would not permit Moses to allow it), they would have given themselves right back to the Egyptians - that was what they wanted to do. But God opened the Red Sea for them, a path that did not appear to be there.
And He will do the same with us. As Moses told the people (and, subsequently, Joshua): "It is the Lord who goes before you; He will never fail you or forsake you." We have that promise and we have seen it enough times. The only time that we ever let the Lord be God and take the lead is when He backs us completely into a corner so that there is no other possibility because we have exhausted all other possibilities. Finally, in desperation we will go to the Lord and say, "Fine. Please help me. You take over! You do it!" And then we see that He does! We are amazed and we wipe the sweat off our brow and say, "Thank you." Then, we go on and we do not trust Him again until the next time that we are absolutely in a corner with no way out; and then, we will turn it over to Him once again. We are people of little faith.
We need to trust. We need to become like little children, who trust their parents, who do not try and tell their parents which way they are supposed to walk or which way they are supposed to drive. They trust that their parents are going to get them where they are supposed to go. If they are taking a route that they do not recognize, they just soak in all the new scenery rather than saying: "Why are we going this direction? Weren't we supposed to turn there?"
That is the way we need to be: lowly, trusting, pure of heart, childlike. Those are the ones who are greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven because they follow the Lord. They allow the Lord to lead and they trust that the Lord is going to lead them in the way which is perfect, which is correct, which is the best way for them to go - even if it does not appear that way on the surface. It is God's Will, and all that is left for us to do is to trust. Trust the Lord. He will lead and He will never fail or forsake you.
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.