We Need Humility to Do the Will of God
Wednesday July 24, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Jeremiah 1:1, 4-10) Gospel (St. Matthew 13:1-9)
There are a couple of points in this first reading which are very, very important for us. First of all, we hear the words of Our Lord to the prophet Jeremiah when He says, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you." This is true of each and every one of us. We would not be here except that the Lord knew from all eternity that we would. He knew from all eternity that we would be created in our mothers' wombs and He is the One who chose to do that. He is the One who chose to make a human soul and infuse it into the body that had newly been conceived. And so each one of us is here solely and specifically because of the Will of God.
Beyond that, He tells Jeremiah that He dedicated him from the womb. So too for each of us, once again, the Lord knew that we were going to be baptized. He knew that we were going to be Catholic, whether we started out that way or converted into that. He knew exactly what was going to happen and, more than that, He has called each one of us to a particular vocation. And beyond just the vocation to which He is calling us, He has called us within that to other things. He has called us to be a priest, prophet, and king because of our baptism. So whether we are married, whether we are religious, whether we are consecrated, whether we are single, or whatever it may be, it does not matter; we are each one of us a priest, a prophet, and a king. Each one has been dedicated to the Lord, and each one has been consecrated and set aside for a specific purpose to do the Will of God.
Now most of us are going to be like Jeremiah and we are going to say "Oh, I'm too young" or "I don't have the ability" or "You've got the wrong person" or whatever our excuse might be, because they go on and on and on as we all know all too many times. And the fact of the matter is that it sounds rather pious. We go before the Lord and say, "But Lord, look how sinful I am. I can't do this! Choose somebody who's better than me. Find somebody who is more holy than I am." We make it sound real pious. The truth of the matter is it's all arrogance; it's false humility. It is a matter that we do not really want to do what God wants us to do when we realize what it is going to require.
He calls Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations. He tells him that He sets him over nations and kingdoms to root up and tear down. His vocation is not going to be an easy or a pleasant one. And Jeremiah knew it! Even though God said, "Before you were created I knew you, and from the womb I dedicated you," still Jeremiah said, "Oh, no, no, no. I'm too young. Who am I to go out there and preach?" The Lord said, "To whomever I send you, you will go. And whatever I tell you, you will say." But Jeremiah was not sure that was what he wanted to do. And it is not just about Jeremiah - it is about all of us. The Lord says to us, "Here's what I want you to do," and if we do not want to do it then we sound real pious, sort of like Ahaz when he said, "Oh, no. I won't tempt the Lord," when Isaiah said, "Go ahead, ask for any sign that you want." This man was one of the most vile kings in all of Israel's history and suddenly, when it comes down to it, now he becomes Mr. Pious. Nonsense.
The same is true for each one of us. If the Lord is asking us to do something, He knew before we were created what he was going to ask of us; right from the womb He dedicated us; He consecrated us in Baptism. He has given us the grace to do whatever it is He is asking of us, and who are we to tell Him "no" because suddenly we have become so pious that we could not possibly consider doing such a thing for the Lord? Pure rot! Would that it were true we were so humble that we would not really think we could do such a thing, that we were so humble before the Lord that we could honestly go before Him and say, "But Lord, look at who I am." But that is not how we do it, and I think we all know that.
We need to really look seriously at this whole thing. We need to ask God what He is asking of us: "What is it that you want of me?" and then we need to do it. We need to quit arguing with Him. We need to quit telling Him all kinds of other things as to why we should not do this and whether we have a better idea as to what we ought to do or how we ought to do it, because God's way is the one that is perfect. And He will give to us everything that we need to accomplish whatever it is that He wants.
Now the other side of this is certainly true. None of us is worthy. None of us is qualified. And you do always have to remember that God will ask us to do the things that are going to be the least natural to us. So it is true that He could have found somebody better. It is true that He could have done with us something different. But that is not the point. The point is that if He has chosen us for a particular purpose then we need to be obedient. And that obedience requires humility. That means we have to be willing to say "yes" to whatever it is the Lord is asking. That is not an easy thing for us, but as the Lord made clear in the Gospel, He has already planted the seed. It is all there. The question is whether we are going to produce fruit or not, whether we are going to choke that seed off or whether we are just going to have no roots, whether we are not even going to allow it to enter into the dirt and we will let the birds come and eat it or are we going to produce fruit for the Lord - thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.
The only ones who will produce fruit are the ones who are humble and who are obedient. That is all. Anyone else - we are going to choke it off because we want to do it our way and not God's way, and we are going to try to tell Him how to do His job. It doesn't work; it never has and it never will. The other thing is, like Jeremiah, we need to wait for God. Jeremiah was dedicated from the womb, but it was not for quite a number of years after that before God called him to the vocation which was his. So it is for each of us. We need to wait for the Lord, and when He calls us then we go. We do not try to tell Him that is not time yet or that here is how it is going to work or anything else. Wait for the Lord. Go to prayer; ask Him what He wants; and then wait for Him. When He gives you the signal, then you go. It is just that simple. Well, would that it would be that simple in each one of us, because we get in the way. So we need to pray for humility, we need to pray for obedience, we need to seek the Will of God, and most importantly -we need to do it.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.