July 10, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier†† Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Genesis 44:18-21, 23b-29; 45:1-5)††
Gospel (St. Matthew 10:7-15)
In the first reading today, we see very clearly that everything that happens in our lives is part of Godís providence. That is an idea that is rather difficult for some of us because there are things that happen in our lives that are not pleasant, things that we look at and say, ďSurely, God canít want this.Ē After all, if we think about Joseph and we see his brothers selling him as a slave into Egypt as just a boy, we would have to say, ďObviously, God doesnít want a child to be sold into slavery. He doesnít want his brothers selling this kid as a slave to the Ishmaelites. Obviously, this isnít Godís Will.Ē Well, I think we can say that it was not what God wanted for the brothers to do because that was something that was clearly sinful, but for Joseph it was Godís Will.
So when we have things happen to us that are not good, we have to also recognize that it is Godís Will for us that this thing is happening to us. It may not be Godís Will that this other person who is doing this thing to us is sinning; that certainly is not Godís Will because it will never be Godís Will that somebody sin. But it is Godís Will that whatever occurs in our lives happens. We can see, as we look at Josephís situation, that after all these many years and all the trials and hardships that he had been through Ė being a slave to this woman in Egypt and then being put into prison and finally coming out of prison and being made the governor and all the different things that happened Ė now Joseph could look at his brothers and say, ďI am Joseph, whom you sold into slavery. But do not be distressed because it was for the sake of saving lives that God allowed this to happen.Ē
At the time that these unfortunate things occur in our lives, we do not understand why it is happening. And, generally speaking, we will not. God is not going to allow us to see it; He is simply going to ask us to trust, to put everything into his hands and trust His providence, to walk with faith. That is not easy for any of us to do, but that is what is required of us if we are going to be followers of Christ. Then the Lord will bring good out of it in time. And only in time will we be able to look back at it and say, ďNow I understand why God allowed this to happen to me.Ē But it is not going to be at the time that it is happening. After it happens, time after time after time Ė for most of us, only after thousands of times Ė will we actually be able to say: ďAt the time that itís happening, I donít know why itís happening, but I trust that this is part of Godís providence for me because Iíve seen it time after time that He brings good out of these bad things that happen. So Iíll just accept it and I wonít complain and I wonít kick and scream and I wonít yell and holler and I wonít rebel against the Lord.Ē But like I said, for most of us that happens only after thousands of attempts because it is not something which is natural to us, but it only comes with lots of experience. But when we see over and over again in the example of other people and in our own lives that God brings good out of the evil that happens in our lives, only then will we come to understand that everything, no matter how good or how bad it may seem in our lives at the time that it happens, every single thing that occurs is part of Godís providence for us and it is part of the way that He has chosen to make us saints.
So what we have to learn to do is not to rebel against Him, but rather to bring these things to prayer and to ask Him to help us to understand how He wants us to respond. Does He want us to address the situation or simply to accept it? Does He want us to fight or does He want us to be docile? What is the obedience that He is asking of us at the time? What kind of response are we supposed to make to whatever this is that is occurring in our lives? Ultimately, all we have to do is look at the Cross and we could say, ďCertainly, it canít be Godís Will that a Man who is absolutely and perfectly innocent would have to suffer so unjustly.Ē We know better than that. It was Godís Will and it brought about the salvation of the whole world. If God is going to give to us the opportunity also to suffer unjustly and to offer that suffering up for the sake of souls, why should we complain? When we look at what He did with His own Son and He gives us the privilege of being able to share in His suffering, we should be rejoicing rather than complaining. Again, that does not come naturally to us and it will only be understood in prayer. That is the response each of us must make. Only then will we be able to say with Joseph, ďDo not be distressed. It was Godís Will that all these things happen.Ē
*† This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.