Friday December 13, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Advent
Reading (Isaiah 48:17-19) Gospel (St. Matthew 11:16-19)
The Lord, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, tells us that He teaches us what is for our good and He leads us in the way that we should go and then tells us that if we would hearken to His commandments, our prosperity would be like a river and our vindication like the waves of the sea. The difficulty for us, however, is even though the Lord has made these things very clear to us, we do not really want to do them because we are very much concerned about what other people think. And so, just like what Our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading when He asked, “To what shall I compare this generation? It is like children who say, ‘We played the flute and you wouldn’t dance and we sang a dirge but you wouldn’t cry,’” it does not matter what you do, it is not going to be right in the eyes of people around you.
And so, what happens for many of us is that we try to find a middle ground, something that other people are not going to find offensive because we do not want them to think we are crazy and we do not want them to reject us. Therefore, we try to find a way that people are going to think is a pretty happy way; in other words, we will be pretty much like everyone else. It does not work and we know that it does not work. But what it does do is it helps us to be able to fit in, to not be rejected, and for some people, at least, to think that we are okay. But in our own conscience, we know that is not really quite the right thing we should be doing.
The problem is that if we would walk in the Lord’s way, and if we would follow the way He would tell us to go, it is going to irritate people. Not because you are doing anything wrong but because, like Saint John the Baptist and like Our Lord, you become a thorn in their conscience. Therefore, they are going to reject you even though it is not you – it is the Lord they are rejecting – but because you are the messenger they are going to reject you as well.
We have to understand, if you are trying to do God’s Will and if you are really living a truly holy life, there are only three ways people can deal with that. One, they could say, “You are right and I am wrong. That’s okay, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing anyway.” That does not usually happen, in fact, almost never. They could say, “You’re right and I’m wrong. I need to change my ways and become more like what you’re doing.” That will happen once in a while when people will have conversions. But most of the time it is ridicule because, after all, if the majority of people are doing more like what they are doing instead of like what you are doing, if they can ridicule you and make you look like you are some kind of a nut then they feel like they are justified in what they are doing. “After all, in America the majority rules, and if it is all of us who are a bunch of sinners and you are the only one trying to live a good and upright life, then you are the one who is weird and the rest of us are okay.” That is what usually happens. So John the Baptist comes along and they say, “This guy’s possessed. He’s crazy.” Jesus comes along and they reject Him because He is a glutton and a drunkard and a friend of sinners and tax collectors. It did not matter who it was or how they were living; if they were doing God’s Will it was going to be wrong in the eyes of most of the people.
What we need to do is learn to seek God’s way and not worry about what everybody else thinks because what everybody else is going to think is usually going to be skewed rather badly anyway. They are not going to be the one who will judge us in the end. And their rejection of us and their judging of us now actually becomes part of our growth in holiness. We become detached from human affection or human respect or esteem, whatever you want to call it, and we learn to rely solely on God. We learn to judge things in the light of God and not in the light of what everybody else thinks about it. It helps us to grow because we are seeking only to do what is right, seeking only what is God’s Will. That is what the Lord is looking for from us.
We need to learn to follow God, to walk in His way, to allow Him to teach us what is good and the way that we should go, and not get caught up in what everybody else is doing or what they are suggesting because we know the way that leads and it is not the way we should be going. But we know if we are going to follow in God’s way and let Him teach us, it is going to come with something of a cost. We need to calculate that before we get on the road and ask if we are willing to do it. Do we want to follow Jesus Christ? Do we want to learn from Him and follow His way? Or do we want to fit in and be like everyone else? That is the question we need to ask ourselves. The Lord, we know, makes very clear what it is we are to do. He tells us in the first reading that He teaches us the way we should go and He will show us the path. All that we need to do is look to Him, learn from Him, and walk according to His way.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.