Tuesday December 10, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Advent
Reading (Isaiah 40:1-11) Gospel (St. Matthew 18:12-14)
In the Gospel reading today, we hear some of the most wonderful news possible, that is, it is not the Will of God that any of the little ones be lost. That is very good news for us, as long as we are willing to be small, as long as we are willing to be among the little ones, the humble ones who are seeking to serve the Lord. The Lord, then, if we turn this the other way and look at the first reading, says that a voice cries out in the desert saying, Make straight the path of the Lord. He talks about how all these various things are going to take place, about how the rough places are going to be a broad plain and the rugged land is going to be flattened out and so on. It is the Lord who is going to do that for us. He talks in the Gospel about how the good shepherd will leave the ninety-nine on the hills, but in the first reading he is talking about how the hills are all going to be flattened out. So for us, as the little sheep, what He is going to do for us is to make the way easy.
Now that seems to contradict what we hear in other places where the Lord tells us, for instance, that the way that leads to Heaven is rough and it is narrow and there are few who are on it. Yet at the same time, we hear that there is going to be a broad valley and a plain and things look pretty easy if there is a way for the Lord. What happens is that the Lord in our hearts can make that area flat. If you just stop to think about what it would require to make the mountains into a plain and to make the rough places into a valley, it would require a lot of work, and so it is. For us, as we struggle along we have to flatten all of these things out, and it is not even us it is the Lord who is doing it in us; all we are doing is co-operating, we are walking with our Shepherd. Yet as the Shepherd continues to lead us and to form us, what happens then is that the sins begin to fall away. The faults begin to be changed into virtues, and all the rough areas of our lives begin to smooth out. And when we get to a certain point in the prayer life, into a certain point in the growth of holiness, things become very simple exceedingly simple and the soul actually is transformed into the Lord so that our will can be one with His. That is the point at which it is going to be truly a broad valley, a straight way, an easy way for us to be able to walk on. To get there is not easy; it is rough and it is narrow. But it changes, then, when we achieve that level of holiness. Then it becomes very easy.
So we need to stay on that path and we need to follow the Good Shepherd. And we need to know that His love for us is individual. He knows each one of us by name. He knows how to find us if we stray. He is willing to leave the others (because He knows they will remain faithful) and come in search of us so that He will be able to bring us back and put us back on that right path. As long as we are trying, as long as we are seeking to follow the Good Shepherd and to grow in holiness, then He will continue to lead us along that path as long as it is our true intention and desire to do it. If we do not want to be part of the flock, that is our choice; He will not force it on us. But if we want to be, He will be very merciful with our weakness. And if we are true to the prayer life and we remain committed and we continue to grow, then what we will see is the fulfillment of these words to give comfort to the people, to proclaim that everything else has been leveled out, that the rough ways are smooth and the mountains are made into a broad valley, and that there is a highway for the Lord.
At that point, we will be able to enter in and out of the Sacred Heart, and Our Lord will be able to enter in and out of our hearts without any difficulty because it will be a highway for the Lord. So it is worth every bit of effort to make sure that we persevere in prayer, that we continue to grow in holiness, that we continue to work on virtue and level out all those rough and rugged areas of our lives. When we understand what the Lord has for us that smooth highway that is going to be a place that the Lord Himself will be able to enter into our hearts with the greatest of ease because nothing would stand in the way and we will be able to enter into His Heart because nothing is in the way that is when we realize that no matter how much it takes, no matter how many mountains we have to knock down and no matter how many valleys we have to fill up, it does not matter because our task is to prepare that highway for the Lord, to open our hearts, to smooth everything out and make a place for the Lord Himself.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.