Tuesday February 19, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week of Lent
Reading (Isaiah 55:10-11) Gospel (St. Matthew 6:7-15)
In the first reading, we hear from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah that "just as from the heavens the rain and the snow come down and do not return until they have completed what they were to do, that is, to make the earth fertile and fruitful, so too," God says, "shall My Word be. And it will not return to Me until it has achieved the purpose for which I sent it." We have to ask ourselves: What is the purpose of God's Word? Remember, first of all, we see that it is in the singular. It does not say "so shall My words be" but "so shall My Word be". God spoke only one Word, and that is Jesus. So what is the purpose of that one Word? What is the reason for which He sent that Word? It is twofold, we could say. It is to reconcile us with God and to make us His children.
And so, what does Jesus teach us today? "Do not multiply your words," first of all, is what He tells us. Just rattling on and carrying on for your whole time of prayer does not guarantee anything. If God spoke one Word - and everything else came to be through that one Word - we do not need to be multiplying lots of words. But more than that, when we hear that His Word will achieve the end for which He sent it, look at what Jesus teaches us to pray: to call God "Father". We are His children now; we have been reconciled with God. Therefore, that reconciliation means that our sins are forgiven. And, of course, Our Lord did not return to His heavenly Father until that purpose was fulfilled.
But because we are His children and because this is the purpose for which He came - to remove our sins so that we could be reconciled with God and become His children - the Lord highlights in this particular passage of the Our Father the point of the forgiveness of sins. "If you forgive other people, your heavenly Father will forgive you; and if you do not forgive them, your heavenly Father will not forgive you." The reason is because we are made members of Jesus Christ, who came into this world for the forgiveness of sins and to make us children of God. What we need to do, then, is to be like Christ; we need to forgive, and we need to treat others as brothers and sisters. We all have the same Father. Jesus came to die for all of us.
The question is simply whether or not we want to be God's children and what that is going to require. The first part sounds very wonderful: to be a child of God. But we need to ask ourselves, then: What will be required of us in order to be the children of God? One of the things that is required is to forgive as we have been forgiven. And if we want to be forgiven, if we want to be God's children, we have to forgive others so that we can remain in that reconciliation with one another and with God. That is the purpose for which that Word is sent to each one of us: to unite us with God, who allows His sun to shine on the just and the unjust, who allows the rain to fall upon the good and the bad. Now God wants His love to work through each one of us, who call ourselves His children. And that love must be to forgive, to let go of whatever stands between us and others, to be willing to reconcile. It is one thing if somebody wants to hate us or hold a grudge against us, but it is a whole different matter if we, who call ourselves God's children, hold a grudge against someone else or harbor hatred in our heart for someone else. That is not acceptable.
So when we look at the Word which has been sent into our hearts and will not return to the Father until it has achieved the purpose for which it was sent, we are part of that Word now. We will not return to the Father unless we achieve the end for which we have been sent, for which we have been incorporated into the Word, who is Jesus Christ. And that is to truly live as children of God, to forgive others as we ourselves have been forgiven.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.