October 10, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thursday Twenty-seventh Week of Ordinary Time
Reading I (Galatians 3:1-5) Gospel (St. Luke 11:5-13)
In the readings today, one could very quickly despair when we hear St. Paul calling the Galatians stupid, and hear Jesus calling us wicked. We think, ďWell if we are stupid and wicked what hope is there for any of us, and what good can we do?Ē The Lord makes very clear what it is that we need to do, as does St. Paul. St. Paul tells us that we need to act on faith. We are not going to be able to earn the love of God. It is not by any kind of works that we have done, that God has given us the gifts He has given us. The Lord tells us how it has happened. He tells us that we have asked, that we have knocked, that we have sought. All of these things need to be done, but they need to be done in faith and in simplicity. It is not trying to trick God, it is not trying to see if we can weasel our way around something and get what we want. It is not a matter of going with haughtiness or arrogance. It is not a matter of trying to figure it all out, and having it all lined up. It is a matter of going to the Lord in childlike faith and trust and confidence, and simply asking. That is what He is looking for.
Most of us, unfortunately, do not do that because we think that we either have to earn Godís love, or that we have to figure all this out, or whatever it is that we have in mind as to how it operates. So we get in our own way and we donít get what we are asking for. Although the Lord has already given us profound gifts, we sometimes do not even recognize them, because we get in our own way. What we have to do today is to see that God, first of all out of love for us, has provided all of these things for us. They are there for our asking. All we need to do is knock and the door will be opened, but most of us will not humble ourselves to do that. We may come to the Lord and actually ask Him for something, but even the way that we do it is in such a way that it is selfish, that it is arrogant, that it is controlling, whatever it may be. So often it is anything but humble and childlike.
St. Paul, chastising the Galatians for being so stupid, is telling them (as we have seen over the last few days in the readings) that all of the sudden you have these people that come and say that the men have to be circumcised. St. Paul is saying did you receive the Holy Spirit because of the works that you have done, because you have followed the law? Because none of you were circumcised before, therefore, how did you receive the Holy Spirit? Why did God give you the gifts, because of what you did, or because of faith in what you heard? It was a simple faith in what they heard. So for us too, especially when we look at the sacraments, we realize that it is not simply because of something we have done, but rather it is a gift of the Lord.
We go through the Sacramental rites, but it is not because of an external thing that we have done, rather the grace that we are going to receive from the Sacrament depends to a great degree upon our disposition. It is not that we cause the grace, but our disposition will cause the heart to open to be able to receive more of the grace that God wants to give us. The Sacrament is valid because of what the Lord has done, but we have to come before Him with faith and with love in order to receive the Sacraments. That is why we come to Mass day after day after day and we walk out with very little change. It is not because there is anything wrong in the Sacrament, but because there is something wrong in ourselves. We ask the Lord, and He isnít going to give us a snake or a scorpion. We have asked Him for great graces, but we do not receive what we are asking for, because of something that is wrong in us. It is not anything that is wrong in God.
We wonder why our prayers arenít answered, and it is because our disposition is not correct. We cannot receive the gift that He is offering. It is as if you have a pitcher, and you put it under the faucet to fill it up with water, but you did not take the cover off, and you wonder why the pitcher is not filling up. You smack the faucet and say what is wrong with this stupid thing that the water is not coming out and going into the pitcher? There is plenty of water coming out and the faucet works fine. The problem is we did not prepare the pitcher to be able to receive the water. There is nothing wrong with Godís grace, it is pouring out, but if we have not prepared the heart to be able to receive the grace, it just hits the heart and goes off because we did not open it up. That is where the trouble lies. It is not with God or His grace, those are working just fine. The problem is with ourselves.
We need to come before the Lord; we need to knock; we need to ask; we need to seek; but we need to do so with faith, with humility, with childlike trust and confidence. Then what we ask we will receive. When we knock the door will indeed be opened, but we need to make sure that our disposition is correct to be able to receive the gifts that God gives. Otherwise if St. Paul were writing to us, he would say you stupid people. What is wrong? We know what is wrong. It is not God, it is us. What needs to change is our disposition to receive the gifts that God desires to give.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.