Wednesday September 26, 2001 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Ezra 9:5-9) Gospel (St. Luke 9:1-6)
In the first reading today from the Book of Ezra, we hear about the exiles who had just come back to the land of Israel, and they were to rebuild the temple. When they went back and saw the temple in utter ruins and recognized what was happening, Ezra fell on his knees before God. Rather than saying: "These horrible Babylonians who destroyed Your temple, kill them all, Lord! Wipe them out! Remove them from the face of the earth!" he said, "We come before You shamefaced and filled with guilt. I cannot even raise my face to You, Lord, because the guilt of our fathers is heaped over our heads."
Maybe it is time that, as Americans, we learn that same attitude. We cannot say, "Look at these horrible people in the Middle East! Look at what they did to us!" Maybe it is time we start looking at ourselves and saying, "Look at what we have done." Our guilt and the guilt of our parents and grandparents is heaped high over our heads: more than 30 million babies worth. And we complain because something terrible has happened.
I think we had better prepare ourselves because everything has been given by the Lord and we are not taking advantage of it. Listen to what He said to His apostles: He gave them authority over all demons and to cure diseases and He sent them out, saying, "Trust. Whatever village you go into, stay there. Eat what they put in front of you. Do not take any money. Do not take a walking staff. Do not take a change of clothes. Just take what you have and go - and trust God."
Americans do not know how to do that. Just think of the last vacation you went on and how much baggage you took with you because "we need it all". No, we do not. What we need is God. But we have decided that we can be reliant upon ourselves. As a nation, we look at that and we have all kinds of people standing up and saying, "We have the best military in the world; we have all the power; we have the technology - we can do it!" And we give lip service to God, at best.
It is time that we start relying on God and on the power of God. But in order to do that, we need to change. Right now, in the situation that we are in, we can say with Ezra, "Lord, You have given us this moment, a little respite." We have an opportunity to change and if we are willing, God is going to be very merciful to us. Think of what happened to the people of Nineveh when Jonah, who was very reluctant about what he was doing, went through Nineveh and told them: "Forty days more and Nineveh will be destroyed." The king called for a fast; He asked the people to pray and to fast. And everything changed.
All that has changed in America is that we are angry with somebody, now, and we want revenge. That is not God's way. God is looking at us and saying, "People of America, you need to change. You need to stop doing all these immoral things and you need to learn how to trust." The apostles only learned how to trust by going out the way the Lord told them to. While we do not hear it in today's Gospel, they came back amazed - amazed that everything the Lord had told them would happen did! They had authority over demons; they could cure the sick; everything was taken care of! They had no money, but they were not hungry. They had no money, but they had a place to stay. Everything was fine because they trusted.
We need to learn that same lesson. If we do not learn it now, we will learn it the hard way. The choice is ours. We can make the changes that we need to make. We can pray and we can fast and we can change our lives. Not just the few of us, but America, in general. If America chooses not to change and not to rely on God, but to rely upon itself and its own ingenuity and its own power and its own technology, then we are in for some sad times. We will have to learn to trust because we will be without money and without walking staff and without a change of clothes. And we will have to trust totally in God.
The choice is entirely ours. God, right now, is giving us this moment of rest and a moment of brief, little time to think and to pray and to make some choices. Which is it going to be? We can choose to do it God's way or the choice will be made for us. It is entirely up to us. Right now, we need to look and get down on our knees, just like Ezra, and say, "Lord, I cannot even lift my face to You because our guilt has risen above our heads." We need to beg, earnestly, for God's mercy and for the grace for the people of this nation to turn around, to stop sinning, and to turn and trust in God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.