Monday July 8, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Hosea 2:16, 17c-18, 21-22) Gospel (St. Matthew 9:18-26)
In the Gospel reading today, we hear about two incidences of people who are suffering terrible problems: the woman suffering with the hemorrhage for twelve years and the family whose little daughter had just died. When we suffer in various ways, we always ask God why. Why is this happening to me? Why are You allowing this? These people certainly could have asked the same thing.
But the answer, I think, is found in the first reading. He says, "I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and I will speak to her heart." That is why the Lord allows these things to happen in our lives. We go along our merry way and really do not pay a whole lot of attention to God too often. He is there. We know that He is there, but we keep Him at a bit of a distance. Or if things do not happen, sometimes we just keep Him at a complete distance; we keep paying Him lip service but we keep Him at an arm's distance. However, when things happen in our lives and suddenly we recognize our dependence on God, then we turn to Him. We open up our hearts and we begin to talk to Him. We ask Him for the help we need and we bring forth all the desires and intentions of our hearts.
We see that suffering in this kind of a way is something very important. The people of Israel had to do the same thing, and those are the people being spoken of in the Book of the Prophet Hosea - that He would lead her out into the desert and speak to her heart. The problem is exactly, as we see in our own lives, when he said, "There she shall respond as in the days of her youth." Think back to when we had first been converted - or reconverted, as the case might be. We were zealous. We were in love with the Lord. We would do anything for Him. Then as time goes along, well, it kind of slips off, just like marriage. You get married and nothing in the world can stop you. You are so in love with this person; you will do anything for that individual. After a few years of marriage, you do not even want to be in the same house anymore. You hardly talk to one another sometimes. That is not the way it is supposed to be. But God, Who is the Spouse of our souls, we sometimes treat the same way. So we need, once again, to get that early love back, just like in the days when our faith was young, when the conversion was strong before we took it for granted, before we allowed our hearts to stray. Not that they have strayed away and become adulterous, but rather, they have strayed away and become selfish. We are not supposed to be focused on ourselves, whether in a natural level marriage or in our spiritual marriage; we are to be focused on the spouse. That is what each one of us needs to be doing.
And so, the Lord takes us out into the desert and there He speaks to our hearts. When you are out in the desert, there are not any other competing voices; you are alone with the Lord because there is nothing else out there. Then we will listen. Then our hearts can be turned back and that early love that we had can return. Once again, we can fall deeply in love with Our Lord, and that is His desire. So when we struggle and we suffer and we wonder why, we do not need to look very far. We really need to look no further than our hearts because there we will have the answer: our hearts that have wandered from Him, or our hearts that need to be perfected, or our hearts that need a deeper and more profound love for God. That is the reason He brings us out into the desert of suffering. There He speaks to our hearts - and waits for our response.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.