Monday September 17, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Timothy 2:1-8) Gospel (St. Luke 7:1-10)
In the Gospel reading today we hear about the faith of the centurion. Jesus praises that faith, even going so far as to say that He had not seen this kind of faith among the Israelites. I suspect that we probably would all fit into that category, as well. Again, it is not that the people of Capernaum did not have faith; it was a question of how strong that faith was - and not the objective kind of faith. That is, did they have faith in the teachings of their faith? The answer was "yes," just as all of us would be able to say that we believe in all of the points of the Creed. The faith that is being spoken of here is the subjective level of faith. That is, how much, personally, did they believe that God would do for them?
When this man is able to say, "Do not trouble yourself, just say the word and my servant will be healed," the Lord says, "This kind of faith I have never found among the Israelites." Tragically, He could probably say that about most Christians today. We really do not believe so deeply and with so much conviction that what He has said, He will do. Therefore, in our own faith, we waffle, we cut the corners, we find ways of being able to get around things because we really do not believe that He will do it. He said, "Whatever you ask in My Father's name I will give you," but because we are unsure that He is really going to do that, when we go to prayer asking something in His name, we kind of pull back in our hearts. We really do not believe that He is going to do it; so when we ask, we ask sheepishly. We ask without really believing that it is going to be done. Consequently, it is not - because we do not believe that it is going to be.
So the Lord said, "Whatever you ask, believe that it is already done and it will be done for you." But because we do not really believe that, most of us walk away from prayer, saying, "See, I did not really think it was going to happen anyway, and it didn't!" Of course it didn't! If we are going to prayer not really believing that what we ask for is going to happen, why would it? If we are going to walk to a swimming pool and stick our toe in the thing and say, "See, I told you that my whole body would not get wet from jumping off the diving board!" Well, you are right because all you really intended to do was stick your toe in the water. You have to believe so firmly and with such conviction that you are willing to climb up on that diving board and jump. And not only that, you have to believe that the pool is filled with water and that if you climbed up on that diving board with your eyes closed, you would actually land in the water and not hit the bottom of an empty pool.
Well, we do not have that kind of faith - most of us, anyway. That is the faith that we need. That is the faith that is going to be required if we are going to do what Saint Paul is telling us: to offer prayer with blameless heart, to have absolute confidence in the truth that God is one, and One is the Mediator between God and man. It is not that we do not believe it objectively: We know that there is only one God and that there is only one Mediator. We all believe that. It is a question of whether we really, firmly believe subjectively in the mediation of Jesus Christ. That is where we need to work on this. We need to have such absolute, unswerving, complete trust and confidence in the word of Our Lord, that He will, in fact, do what He has promised. Then, when we go to prayer, we will ask with confidence; we will believe without seeing that it has been done; and we will walk away without a single question or doubt in our mind. Then, we can be sure that whatever we ask in His name will be done.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.