Tuesday July 23, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Micah 7:14-15, 18-20) Gospel (St. Matthew 12:46-50)
In the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Micah, the prophet speaks to us about who God is and tells us that God is our Shepherd, but also then speaks about the forgiveness of sin, that God removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of His inheritance, that He does not persist forever in His anger but delights in clemency, and He has compassion upon us and He treads our guilt underfoot. This is precisely why we have so much confidence and so much hope, because we realize that we cannot do anything about our sins on our own; but rather, in the mercy of God we have the forgiveness of our sins and when He forgives our sins they are gone. It is precisely for this reason that Our Lord can say in the Gospel that His mother and brothers and sisters are the ones who do the Will of His Father, because their sins are forgiven and they are given the grace to be able to do God's Will. That is what each one of us has the opportunity to do.
We must understand that when we go into the confessional and confess our sins not only are our sins completely removed - and they are; they are gone; they are destroyed, as the prophet says that He will cast into the depths of the sea all of our sins - but then the next part of what the prophet tells us is also the truth; that is, that He will show us His faithfulness and His grace. And so, He gives to us His grace in the confessional. We are returned to the state of sanctifying grace if we were in the state of mortal sin, or we have an increase of sanctifying grace if we were only in the state of venial sin. Regardless of the situation, what does happen when we come out of the confessional is that all of the grace necessary to stay out of sin is given to us; all of the grace necessary to be able to do the Will of God is there for us. When we are in the state of grace, sharing in the very life of God, we are truly mother and brother and sister to Our Lord because we share His very life.
But it is not merely a matter, as He makes very clear, of simply having the same life, of being in the state of grace, but it is doing the Will of His heavenly Father. If we have the life of God, then we have to live the life. It is not enough to say we have it - we have to live it, we have to put it into practice. We need to be able to do the works of our heavenly Father. And that is exactly what Our Lord told us that He came for. His food was to do the Will of He who sent Him.
So too for each one of us, if we want to be the brother and sister and mother to Our Lord it is to, first, share His life, and second, to do His Will, to carry out his work, to allow Him to live in us and through us so that it is the Lord who is doing His work through us. By ourselves, all we are going to do is sin. With His grace, however, we can practice virtue. That is what Our Lord requires. His fidelity is completely there. He is the One who will destroy our sins and cast them away, but He is also the One who will shepherd us, who will give us grace and demonstrate His fidelity if we are willing to allow Him to do so. It requires from each of us that we must depend on God and that we must get ourselves out of the way so the Lord can work in us. Otherwise, we come to Him because we recognize that we are in sin and all we want is to get out of our sinfulness but we do not really want to do His Will, because all we want is to do what we want to do. And we will come back to Him the next time we get ourselves into sin because we did it our way instead of His. But we want to go beyond that. It is not enough just to say that we do not want to be in sin, but it is that we want to practice virtue, that in all things we want to do the Will of God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.