July 7, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Genesis 28:10-22a) Gospel (St. Matthew 9:18-26)
In the first reading, we hear about this dream of Jacob. Jacob, recall, is the man whose name was changed to “Israel” and he is the son of Isaac. So we have Abraham and Isaac and Jacob that are mentioned here. God is telling him that He is the God of his forefathers, Abraham and Isaac, and now He is telling him that it is through Jacob that He is going to fulfill the promise that He made to Abraham, that in him all the nations will be blessed, that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars of the sky or the sand on the shore of the sea. Yet, at the same time, Jacob, like the rest of us, questions and wonders and doubts. But then he says at the end, “If all of these things happen then the Lord will be my God.” He already knew Who the Lord was – he had been taught, of course, by his own parents – but he had all those questions and all those doubts.
We do the same thing. We can read the Gospels and we can hear all about how Jesus raised this little girl from the dead or all the other things that He did, but still we doubt and we wonder and we question. We say, “Well, if this happens then maybe the Lord will be my God.” What we need to do is recognize simply Who He is and stop doubting. It is a human thing to doubt and to question, but when we look at it for our own selves, those doubts and questions early on make some sense because if we are just going through a conversion process, we are not sure, our feet are not planted firmly on the ground yet; but for most of us, that should not be an issue any longer. We have more than enough evidence to show Who God is, and we have more than enough evidence to show who we are. It is pretty evident which direction we need to be looking. There is but one God; that is evident enough. So there need be no doubt in the least about where we should keep our focus. And we need to make that choice in a radical way.
Jacob recognized, as he saw this vision of the angels going up and down on this ladder, that this was the abode of God. That is why he called the place Bethel – “the House of God”. It was the place where God was dwelling among His people. Recall also that there was a statement by Jesus of a similar vision when He was talking to Nathaniel and told him that he would see these same things. But rather than just being a place, the house of God is now each person who is in the state of grace. God dwells within and each one of us has become that house. And God has sent His angels to keep guard over each one of us and to lead us safe and sound into eternity. Even though we cannot see these various things – we do not see the angels, we do not see the Lord, we do not feel the indwelling of the Trinity within us – we see them by faith because we have the promises of the Lord Himself that this would be the case. “Anyone who loves Me,” He said, “My Father will come to him and We will tabernacle (or ‘We will pitch our tent’) and make our dwelling within him.” So we have the promise of Christ, and we have Saint Paul telling us that we are temples of the Holy Spirit, that we are the dwelling place of God.
If we make that choice for Jesus Christ then all of the promises of Christ are ours. Just as God made these promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and fulfilled them completely in them and through them, so He has made promises to each one of us and He will indeed fulfill them. What remains is simply for us to be faithful, to accept the promises that He has made and the Person Who has made the promises, to be faithful to those promises, and to be faithful to Him and allow Him to show Himself to be faithful to us. It is not that difficult. The problem is it is not tangible; we do not have a written contract or a handshake. But we have the death of Christ; we have His love demonstrated for us on the crucifix and continuing to be proven to us everyday when He offers Himself continually through the Mass and gives Himself to us in the Eucharist. Every proof is there, every evidence that we could possibly want. All we need to do is open our hearts and say with Jacob, “The Lord is my God.” That is what He is waiting for: to have no doubt, no question, to make that act of faith in a solid manner and to be able to live it out, and to allow the Lord to fulfill all of His promises in each one of us.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.