Thursday July 11, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Hosea 11:1-4, 8e-9) Gospel (St. Matthew 10:7-15)
In the reading today from the Book of the Prophet Hosea, we hear such beautiful words: Our Lord says, "When Israel was a child I loved him" and then goes on to tell us that he "drew them with human cords and with bands of love" and He "fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks." You see the absolute tenderness of the Lord for us; His love for us is such that it is truly a parental love. One could really almost say in this kind of a situation that it is a maternal kind of love. That is the kind of love with which the Lord loves us: He is willing completely to give Himself to us and for us. And that is precisely what we see in Our Lord. The heavenly Father has sent His Son in human form, as a human being, so He can truly draw us with human cords and with bands of love. He is truly the One, then, who holds us like an infant, taking us into His Sacred Heart and teaching us how to love. Yet how many, as it says, do not even realize that He is the Healer, that He is the One who has come into this world to free us from our sins, that He is the One who will heal us from all of our difficulties and struggles. We do not even realize.
But then we also see Our Lord saying, "My heart is overwhelmed and my pity is stirred. I will not give vent to my blazing anger." So, again, we have that kind of a guarantee from Our Lord of His love, that even though like a parent He will discipline us if we have gone astray - and that too is done out of charity for us - He is not going to give vent to what we really deserve. Once again, just look at the Cross; that is what we see. God did not give vent to His anger; but rather, what He did was to send His Son so Our Lord would take all of the punishment onto Himself so that we could be freed by the Son of God.
When we see these things, we need to be able to respond to it, not to become like Ephraim where it says, "The more I called them, the farther they went from Me, sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to idols." Rather, we need to respond to those bonds of love, to that human form of love, to be able to draw to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to be able to be drawn into the very love of God. We have all the saints who have shown us the way to do this. We have Our Lord and Our Lady, who call us to union with themselves. And so, there is no excuse for us any longer. The Lord has fulfilled everything He has said to the prophet Hosea. So when we look at the Gospel reading and Our Lord says, "If they will not receive you, shake the dust from your feet. It will be better for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that city on the Day of Judgment," we look at that and we say, "But how can the Lord say, 'I'm not going to give vent to my anger,' and yet on the same token it is going to be easier for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah?" It is because the Lord has already fulfilled everything in His love and now the choice is ours.
Are we going to accept that love? Are we going to be drawn to the heart of our heavenly Father? Or are we going to walk away from Him? Like the people of Ephraim (which is Israel), are we going to continue to say, "Oh, yes, we are Israelites. We are the chosen people of God" - because we are the new Israelites and we are the chosen people of God - yet they continued to wander away, constantly acknowledging who God called them to be, but not living what God called them to be. Now it is our choice. We know who God has called us to be. The question is - Are we willing to do it? Are we willing to become saints? Are we willing to put everything else aside to follow God? Are we willing to hear the word of the Gospel: "The kingdom of God is at hand" and reform our lives and put our lives in order to be truly children of God. If He is the One who stooped down to feed us, if He is the One who has healed us because He is our Father, then we as His children should become like our Father. And if there is any question of what that is to look like, we have Jesus, the One to whom we can look to see how this is to be done. The choice is entirely ours. The love of God in human form is right there in front of us. He has indeed stooped down to us. He has drawn us with human cords and with bands of love, but if we do not want His invitation, if we do not want His love, and if we do not want to respond, the dust will be shaken from His feet and it will be easier for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah than for us on the Day of Judgment. We need to reform our lives - the kingdom of God is at hand.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.