Monday November 12, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Wisdom 1:1-7) Gospel (St. Luke 17:1-6)
In the Gospel reading Our Lord tells us that scandals will inevitably arise. Yet at the same time, when we look at the first reading, we hear about wisdom. We are told that wisdom is not going to be found in a person who practices deceit, that wisdom is not going to be found in a person who is not walking with integrity. But rather, only those who are seeking to do the Will of God, those who walk, as it says, "in integrity of heart", those who do not disbelieve the Lord are the ones who are going to receive the gift of wisdom.
Now, on the natural level, one would think: "If there is somebody who is disbelieving, if there is somebody who is not walking in integrity, if there is someone who is deceitful, those are the ones who need to have wisdom manifested to them. Perhaps if they saw the truth, then they would convert, then they would turn around." But, in fact, it works just the other way. In other words, as it says: "The Lord will not manifest Himself to those who test Him." If we do not believe in the Lord, oftentimes, what He does is he keeps Himself hidden. He will show us in various ways that He is there, so it is not something that we cannot know or that is so far away from us that we cannot see it or understand it. But if it is a matter of wanting to know the Lord, the first thing we need to do is make that act of faith because it is evident - just look around - it is obvious that the Lord is here. And so, we need to make the act of faith. Once we can recognize that there is Someone who is beyond us, Someone who is infinite and perfect, then He will begin to manifest Himself to us. But if we want to walk around saying that He does not exist, then it does not matter if He would manifest Himself to us because we would not believe anyway.
If you look at it on the negative level, then as it is so often said: "For those who claim that Satan does not exist, Satan has free reign to do anything because no matter what he does, people are going to say, 'Well, it couldn't be the devil because he doesn't exist'." Then we look at it on the positive side: If we try to claim that God does not exist, obviously it does not matter how God manifests Himself, those people will not believe anyway. We want God to manifest Himself more in our lives. Now, by that I do not mean that we are looking for extraordinary things. I do not mean that we are trying to impress people by letting them see that we can do things that are not normal or something like that. Every once in a while you will see that in a person's life, but those are not people who are trying to impress others. Rather, those are people (usually) who have enough humility that God can allow things like that to happen without endangering their spiritual life. We do not pray for those kinds of things; we do not ask for those sorts of things. The saints tell us that if those things happen, pray that they go away. What I am talking about is simply asking the Lord to make Himself more clearly manifest within us by living a life of greater holiness, by living a life of deeper prayer and deeper union with God, by simply being able to have greater faith and hope and charity.
That is where the Lord simply says that we need to ask for the faith - but we need to make that act of faith first. Then we can be like the disciples and come to the Lord and say, "Increase our faith." The Lord will tell us, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seedů" But they were asking, "Increase our faith." They already had the faith, and they had enough faith to be able to see that it was small, and enough faith and enough humility to ask that their faith be increased. That is what we need to be doing. When we can be humble enough to ask the Lord for the help that we need and recognize our dependence upon Him, then He will manifest Himself in us because we are not trying to be deceitful. We are not lacking integrity when we do that. We are not going before the Lord knowing that we are small and weak, but trying to tell Him how wonderful we are and how perfect we are and that we have everything under control. But rather, we are trying to go before Him honestly, with integrity, acknowledging the truth of our own weakness and our own sinfulness.
But also acknowledging that there is faith there and that we need it to be increased so that the Lord can become more manifest within us and that faith (which, sadly, is even smaller than a mustard seed) can begin to grow so that it will become full within our lives. That is what we are seeking from the Lord: perfect faith, complete hope, and total charity so that we can know and love and serve God, not looking for ourselves, but rather, wanting the Lord to be manifest in us for the glory of God and the good of others.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.