Tuesday March 11, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week of Lent
Reading (Isaiah 55:10-11) Gospel (St. Matthew 6:7-15)
In the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord tells us, “Just as from the heavens the rain and the snow come down and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it fruitful…so will my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it will not return to me void, but will achieve the end for which I sent it.” Now, there are a couple of ways one could look at that.
Our Lord, in the Gospel reading, tells us that we are not to babble on. We are not to be like the pagans who think they are going to be heard just because they keep on speaking more and more words, as though that is what is important. It is not the words that are so important, but it is what is in the heart. And so the Lord teaches us the Our Father, and in these seven little petitions, every single thing that we could ever ask for is contained – everything. There is absolutely nothing that is not contained within one of these seven petitions. One could certainly make them more specific but it does contain everything. When we think about that, we realize that the number of words is not what is important, but it is really what is behind those words. It is the love that we need to have and it is the manner in which we speak those words. We need to be paying attention to what it is that we are praying. We need to pay attention to Who we are addressing. We need to keep in mind who is doing the prayer, that is, how unworthy we are to be in the Lord’s presence. And we need to be very much aware of the words that we are addressing to Our Lord.
On the other side of this, we can look at it and say, “God’s word…” When we think of the Lord, God spoke only one word. Saint John of the Cross reminds us of that. He tells us that in the silence of eternity God spoke one word – and that one Word is Jesus. Everything is contained in Him. As it says in the Psalms, “He spoke and it came to be.” And so in that one Word that our heavenly Father spoke, everything that exists came into existence. He sent that Word into this world – the Word made flesh – and that Word did not return back to Him until He had fulfilled the purpose for which His Father had sent Him. He came into this world to suffer and to die so that we could be saved, and He did not go back until He had done exactly what He came for. If we look at what was spoken in the prophet Isaiah, He did indeed water this earth; it was parched and it was lifeless, and He watered it. He gave seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, particularly in the Eucharist. Everything that God has promised is fulfilled in Our Lord, the Word of God made flesh, Who dwelt among us; the Word of God, Who came into this world and did not return void, but rather, He brought with Him back into Heaven the souls of all of those who would believe in Him to give greater glory to God.
And so when we think of God’s Word and what is spoken through the prophet Isaiah, then it can reflect back on us because we are members of that Word of God, of Jesus Christ. We speak the Word of God; we pray in the Word of God and to the Word of God and with the Word of God; therefore, it needs to inform us as to how we are to pray. God sent us into this world so that not only would we be able to believe in His Son and have life, but we would be able to share with Him in His work of redemption, uniting our suffering with His, uniting our prayers with His. And so the Lord is expecting that we too will not return to Him void, but through our prayers and through our good works and sufferings that we will water the parched and lifeless souls around us, that we will show to them the way to the Eucharist so that they too will have the Bread of Life to eat. He wants us to bring as many souls with us as we are able so that we too will give greater glory to God. That is precisely the Will of God.
So whether it is in the spoken words of prayer, the words of the heart that never come out of the mouth in prayer, or whether it is uniting ourselves with the Word made flesh, it matters not; we need to be focused on our purpose, on what we are about, and on why God has us here. We are to make sure that we are doing His Will so that we do not return to Him void or empty, but that we fulfill the reason and the purpose for which He sent us, which is the salvation of our souls and to bring many people to Heaven and to give greater glory to God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.