Wednesday December 19, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week in Advent
Reading (Judges 13:2-7, 24-25a) Gospel (St. Luke 1:5-25)
In the readings today, we see the beginning of the way that God frees His people. At the time that Samson was born, the people of Israel were under Philistine subjection so God decided that He would raise up somebody to begin the work of freeing the people of Israel from the Philistines. There was a large chunk that was dropped out of this particular reading, but Manoah did not believe his wife. And so, when his wife came and said (as we heard in the reading) that an angel had appeared to her and said that she would bear a son, the man did not believe her at all. There was a whole number of other things that happened in between before she finally conceived. So we see the pattern.
The important thing also to recognize is that even though we see the correlation between Samson and John the Baptist - that neither is to have wine or strong drink, both are to be consecrated to the Lord from the womb, and so on - nonetheless, we know that Samson was not faithful to the Lord. He did repent and at the end of his life wound up being faithful and beginning the work, but nonetheless, he had not been faithful to the Lord. But John the Baptist, on the other hand, did remain faithful. And so, on the one hand, you see the beginning of the freeing of the people, the liberation of the people from the Philistines, from the natural enemy. Because it was a natural enemy rather than a spiritual enemy, it was just a prefiguration of what would come to be. Their subjection to this people really was a demonstration of their subjection to sin. That is why they were under the subjection of the Philistines: because of their sinfulness.
God worked to free them on the natural level and, well, we know, on the natural level, our weaknesses, we know the difficulties and so even the man that God raised up to do this work was not entirely faithful. But on the spiritual level, when God was going to free us from our sins - that which was prefigured through Samson and through the liberation from the Philistines - God raised up the greatest man born of woman. Once again, [there is] the same pattern: His father did not believe when the angel told him what was going to happen, his mother was not to drink wine or strong drink, and the boy was consecrated to God from the womb. This one remained entirely faithful to the Lord. With the power and the spirit of Elijah, we are told, he went before the Lord to prepare His way, to turn the hearts of the children back to their Father so that we would be able to see that God truly is our Father and that we would have our hearts opened to be able to receive Him.
So too, today, we recognize that we have been saved from our sin by Our Lord. Yet, how often we keep turning back to it. How often we refuse to accept. In many ways, we are very much like Zechariah; we are very much like Manoah, except we have to be held to a much higher accountability. The angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah to tell him the Good News and Zechariah did not believe. Godís own Son has come to us to tell us the Good News and still we do not want to accept. Like Zechariah, we say, "How can this be? Itís not possible. Look how big my sins are! There is no way that this can happen. God could forgive other people - He canít forgive me!" How many rationalizations and justifications we come up with to be able to say that this cannot happen.
If Zechariah was made mute because of his disbelief, what is going to happen when we stand before the Lord on the Day of Judgment and we have to answer, not to why we did not believe an angel, but why we did not believe the Son of God? The Good News has been preached to each one of us and it is not only that the work of the freedom from sin has begun, but it has been accomplished. All we need to do is accept it and be able to walk that path. In a sense, we could say that it has begun in our lives and that we are not yet perfect - it is not yet completely removed from our lives. That is, the ability to sin is still there and we are still affected by it. But sin itself has been overcome; the war has been won. And so we simply need to be able to accept what the Son of God has taught us, what He has done for us. Quit doubting and simply believe.
It does not make sense when we look at it within ourselves. There is no way, if we are going to look at ourselves, to suggest that we earned it or that we have deserved it or that we did anything to make God want to do this for us. Quit trying to figure it out; it will never happen. All that we can do is accept. That is all. Just simply look at it from that perspective and say, "I donít have to figure it out. I donít have to understand why because I never will. I can understand what God did. I canít understand why He did it, except that He did it out of love." And so, all the reasons that we can come up with for why this just does not make sense - they are all true; it does not make sense. But, the fact of the matter is that it has happened and that is what we need to accept. Do not try to look at it with logic when you apply the forgiveness of sin to yourself because logic does not apply.
It is love only that applies. And God has done it. We simply need to believe, otherwise, we will stand on the Day of Judgment guilty of not believing the word of God spoken by the Word of God and the Word that heals us. "Doubt no longer," Jesus said to Saint Thomas, "but believe." And that is what He will say to each one of us today as well, because it is not an angel who has revealed this to you - but the Son of God Himself.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.