Wednesday October 9, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Galatians 2:1-2, 7-14) Gospel (St. Luke 11:1-4)
In the first reading, we hear about Saint Paul correcting Peter when Peter came to Antioch. After the people came from James, then Peter, who had been eating with the Gentiles, suddenly pulled away and started to become more like the Jewish people because there were these others who said that you have to be Jewish and have to follow Jewish customs in order to be Christian, and Saint Paul corrected him. We see that this is a very important thing because at that time the question was: Did the Gentiles have to be circumcised? Did they have to become Jews before they could become Christians?
What was happening and what Saint Paul was able to recognize in what Peter did was to call on the question of: "If you, who are Jewish, are acting like a Gentile, then why are you requiring the Gentiles to become like Jews?" And that was the point God used to be able to make clear for them that, in fact, Christianity was something different from Judaism and one did not have to be circumcised in order to become a Christian. That is the way the Lord works at times. He will take something we do that is completely wrong and He will help us to understand, not only that what we did was wrong, but that there is something else we need to learn from it. That is exactly what He did with this situation so that the Gospel that was being preached to both Jews and Gentiles was the same Gospel.
Up to that point, Saint Paul was preaching to the Gentiles that they did not have to be circumcised. Titus, for instance, had not been circumcised, even when Saint Paul brought him to Jerusalem. So all along Saint Paul had been preaching that Gospel. But for the Jewish people, it was not an issue; they assumed, naturally, that all the Gentiles would have been circumcised and would have been made into Jews. But now that things were growing, they had to deal with these issues. And so, Saint Paul goes up to Jerusalem to make sure that the Gospel he was preaching was in accord with what the other apostles were preaching, just to make sure that everything was one. Then God used this particular circumstance to be able to clarify for the apostles what His Will truly was.
For us, then, we can learn from this. We learn from this that when we make the mistakes that we make in our lives, when we do things that are clearly in the wrong but we are confused about it - so it is not that we are just going out and committing blatant sin and throwing it in God's face - but rather, when we make the mistakes of our lives that we have to learn from them. What are the lessons that God wants us to learn? How does He want us to change by learning whatever it is we have to learn from this example? He will always bring good out of the circumstances of our lives. If we can come to see that everything is part of God's Will, that is when we will be able to see that nothing happens by chance, that God knew everything that was going to occur in our lives and He allowed it so we would be able to learn from that and we will be able to use that to help others.
And so, Saint Peter, rather than being thoroughly humiliated by this situation and walking away saying, "I guess I'm just a lousy Christian. Who do I think I am trying to be the head of this Church? I can't even get it right!" was able to stand up and recognize that this was the truth and be able to acknowledge that truth and be able then to live it - not only live it himself, but be able to proclaim to all of the others that this is God's Will.
That is exactly what we can do as well. Rather than get down on ourselves because we did something wrong or we made a mistake and letting our pride get in the way and ripping ourselves to pieces and telling ourselves what a lousy Catholic we are and all the other things we might go through, we need simply to get up and we need to see what God wants us to learn from this - whether it is humility for being so weak and, therefore, our dependence on Him; or whether it is because there is some point we have to learn from this and He is using this as an object lesson for us so we can have a greater insight into something else. Whatever it may be, we simply need to get back up on our feet, take it to prayer, and see what God wants us to learn from it. And in that way, not to allow the devil to have the upper hand even when we fall, but for God to bring good out of the evil of our lives, to let Him teach us through our mistakes so that we learn and we grow in holiness even by the things we do that are not correct. By correcting them and learning from them, then we get onto a different track.
We are just like the disciples in the Gospel. We have to come to Jesus, and on what would seem to be the simplest thing in the world, we recognize that not even they understood. Teach us how to pray; teach us, Lord, in everything. Not just how to pray, teach us what You want us to know from our mistakes; teach us what You want us to know from these events of our lives, And teach us, too, how to pray so that we will know Your Will and be able to conform ourselves more perfectly to it in all things and at all times.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.