Wednesday February 5, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Hebrews 12:4-7, 11-15) Gospel (St. Mark 6:1-6)
In the Gospel reading we hear about the people of Nazareth who were amazed at Jesus; in fact, it says, “They took offense at Him.” The reason is they thought that they knew Him and because of this they refused to put any faith in Him. Yet at the same time, when we look at ourselves, we do know Who He is; we do not know Him perfectly, obviously, but we know even better than the people of Nazareth. Even though they saw Him grow up and they watched Him from the time He was a little boy all the way into manhood, still, they did not know Him. They did not know that He was God. They did not understand what He was about and they took offense. At the same time, it says of Our Lord, “He was amazed at their lack of faith.”
Now if we turn this around and bring it into the modern day, we would have to say, “We do know Who the Lord is. He is God and He is man. We have heard the Gospel so many times and still we take offense at Him.” Not in the same way that the people of Nazareth did, two thousand years ago, but in the way that Saint Paul, for instance, speaks of in the first reading. When things happen to us, we get angry at God and we wonder why He is allowing these unfortunate things to happen to us. “After all, if God loves me,” we reason, “He wouldn’t be allowing me to suffer these things.” Saint Paul reminds us that God disciplines those whom He loves.
But we look at others and we complain because we see that God allows these other people to kind of do almost anything they want, and us, well, He hardly even allows the tiniest little mistake and He is all over us with discipline, keeping us on a very short leash, pulling us back very quickly when we make even the smallest little misstep. And then we look at some of these other people that He just sort of lets go their way and we say, “Why do You do this to me when You allow this person to do this and that and the other thing? It’s not fair! God hates me. If He loved me, He wouldn’t do this to me!”
But, in fact, it is just exactly the opposite. If God did not love you, He would let you go your own way. The fact that God knows you want to do what is right, that you are trying to live a good, upright, and holy life, means that He is going to draw you very close to Himself. And if you do make any misstep, He will discipline you immediately – even for the smallest little things – because He wants to keep you on the straight and narrow path. He wants to keep you on that straight track that is going to lead to Him. But if we look at people who have wandered from Him, we can even look back in our own lives, many of us, and we can see that God had allowed us to wander away and do our own thing. The worst possible curse that a person can have is that God just lets you wander off and do whatever you want to do because that means, in essence, that you have stopped loving Him, that you have decided you do not want to do it His way any longer and He simply lets you go the way you want to go. There is nothing worse that can happen to a person than that.
So if God is keeping you on a very short leash, if He disciplines you almost immediately for any little misstep that you have taken, rejoice! Do not be offended by Him. Do not be astonished at Him. And, for heaven’s sake, do not let Him be amazed at your lack of faith! But rather, rejoice because you recognize that God is treating you as His own beloved child and He is disciplining you as a father would discipline his son in order to bring about, as Saint Paul tells us, the fruit of righteousness: to lead a holy life without which, as he says, no one will go to Heaven.
If we are trying to do God’s Will, if our desire is to be able to grow in holiness and to be united with the Lord, He is going to take that very seriously and He is going to help us to do that. Part of the way He will help us is to discipline us if we step out of line. He will give us the grace to be able to do what is right, but when we do not cooperate with that grace, He will remind us, sometimes very gently, other times a little more harshly depending on what we have done. But it is out of love, not out of hatred, not out of anger, but out of love that the Lord does that to us. So we need to keep constantly in mind that this is a great gift, and we should not be angry at God and we certainly should not take offense at Him; but rather, we should rejoice because He is being the good Father that He is and treating us as children who love Him and whom He loves. Always keep in mind that principle: If God allows you to go off and do whatever you want to do, that is the worst possible thing that can happen to you; and if He is keeping you on that very short leash, that is a great grace and the best possible thing that can happen because that means He is treating you as His own beloved son or daughter and disciplining you as a father disciplines his son.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.