Thursday August 1, 2002 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Jeremiah 18:1-6) Gospel (St. Matthew 13:47-53)
In the Gospel, Our Lord tells us today that as they pull the net up from the sea they will then separate out what is good from what is bad, and what is good they will put in the buckets, what is bad they are going to throw away. The Lord tells us it is going to be the same at the end of the age. Yet at the same time, before that end of the age comes, for each one of us there is a formation that must happen in our lives. And it is continually happening.
That is exactly what we see in the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah in the first reading this morning. Jeremiah goes down to the potter's house and he sees the potter forming the clay into a particular shape. If he does not like the way that the clay is looking, then he smashes it down and tries to make something different. If he does not like the way that looks, he tries again. Even if he does like the way the clay is looking, he is still going to make different forms in it by sticking his thumb into a certain area to make an indentation or to make ridges (or whatever it may be) throughout the piece of clay so that the form is going to be the way he wants it.
The Lord is doing the exact same thing for each one of us. He smashes us down when we do not conform to His Will and we are not doing what we are supposed to and then He tries to remake us according to the form that will be in accordance with what is in His mind and according to His Will. However, the difference between clay and us is that clay does not have a free will. Clay will do what the potter does with it: The potter molds it in his hands, the clay is going to be molded; the potter sticks his finger into the clay, it is going to have an indentation; if the potter pulls the clay, it is going to have a ridge or whatever it might be. However, God has given us free will and it is up to us to decide whether we are going to cooperate with God.
Oftentimes, we choose not to. God tries to form us one way but we think we know better and we tell Him, no, that we do not want to be formed the way He wants us formed. We fight against Him. But if we would become docile in the hands of God, we could become the persons that God created us to be. The difficulty for us is if we refuse to allow God to form us according to His Will, then what is going to happen is that on the Last Day we are going to be pulled from the net and we are going to be thrown away because we are not going to be found to be good, we are not going to have conformed ourselves to God's Will and, therefore, we are not going to have a place in the kingdom of Heaven.
But at the same time, if we are willing to allow the Lord to form us then we will be found good because we will be found in the image of God. Now at this point, for most of us, that is going to require some reformation because we have tried to form ourselves according to the way that we think is a good form and not necessarily according to the way that God thinks is a good form. And so it means, then, that He may have to knock us down, take whatever form we have made, break it back down into a big lump, and start all over again. And it means that as He forms us, He is going to have to squeeze a little bit to be able to make it the way He wants it; it means He will stick His thumb in where He wants there to be an indentation; it means He will pull where He wants there to be a lip or a ridge or whatever it may be. Of course, we kick and scream and we think that He is making a mistake. We do not like the form He is making until we see what it really looks like. Then we begin to realize that what He is doing is perfect and that the form is truly beautiful. But in the meantime, we tend to kick and scream and try to tell the Potter how He ought to form the clay instead of allowing the Potter to tell the clay how it is supposed to be formed.
Each one of us, we recall from the Book of Genesis, is made from the clay of the earth and we should be clay in the hands of God - docile to the movement of the Potter, to whatever it is that He wants for us to be. But because we have free will, we have to choose to be docile, we have to choose to allow Him to make us the way He wants us to be. That is something that is not an easy choice for us. Objectively, we would say, yes, that is exactly what we want. Subjectively, we have to make that choice every moment of every day. It is not a one-time thing to say, "Lord, just do with me whatever You want"; we have to renew that commitment day after day after day, and sometimes minute after minute after minute. But that choice is ours. God will not force us to be the way that He wants us to be; we have to choose it.
The choice is ours. God is the Potter; we are the clay. He wants us in His image and likeness, conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus. Anyone who is so conformed to the image of Jesus Christ will be brought into the kingdom of Heaven; anyone who is not is going to be thrown into the fire where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. That choice belongs entirely to us: to use our free will to allow God to conform us to the image of His Son.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.