Monday July 14, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Exodus 1:8-14, 22) Gospel (St. Matthew 10:34-11:1)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord makes very clear to us who needs to be the priority for us – and it needs to be Him. This is something we all know, but again it is the problem of putting it into practice. When He tells us that we have to love Him more than father or mother and more than our children, that becomes something very difficult for us. We know that this is the case and it is even something that we want, but when we stop to think especially about our children – to think that we would love somebody more than our own kids –what we have to remember is that even the children are God’s first. They belong to Him. He has entrusted the children to their parents, and the parents cooperated with God in creating the children; but it is God Who created them and they are first and foremost His children, which is why we have to love Him even more than our children, even more than spouse, even more than parents, because God created each of those persons as well.
Then He goes on to tell us that even as much as we can love our children (or our parents or relatives or whomever it may be) in some cases they themselves are the ones who are going to turn against us, because if we are going to put God first, He is going to allow that to be tested. It is easy for all of us to sit back and say, “Oh, I love God more than anybody in the world,” until it is tried, until we actually find out whether we love God more than anybody in the world and how much we really do love Him. Are we going to be faithful to Him in times of persecution? Are we going to be faithful to Him even if it is our own family members who are persecuting us? Are we willing to make sure that we are going to keep God and His commandments first, above anything and everything else?
These are very, very difficult things for us. Again, look at the people of Israel and what they had to endure as they were tested in their faith, being reduced even to bitter and cruel slavery. They had to ask themselves, “Am I going to continue to believe in God even when He allows us to be reduced to slavery? Am I going to continue to be faithful? Am I going to continue to love Him even when it appears that either He has abandoned us or He does not even exist because He is not hearing our prayers, He is not answering us the way that we think He ought to answer us and in the time that we think He ought to answer us?” After all, one could say for them, “If we are the chosen people of God, what are we doing down here in Egypt as slaves? And why isn’t God getting us out of here? After all, it was God Who told Israel to go to Egypt and not to be afraid. So now why do we have to be slaves?”
It is precisely to purify, to test, because we do not know how much faith we have and we do not know how much love we have for God until it is tested. And most of us find out in a rather tragic way how much we really have. It is usually pretty tiny. The first waves of persecution or struggle or difficulty come and we start questioning and complaining and doubting and everything else. Therefore, the Lord allows more persecution and more struggles in order to develop the faith and the love that we have. We like to say, “Well, if He would just pull back and lay off then I would be fine.” The fact is if He did that we would have only a tiny, tiny, little bit of faith and love. And so He continues to allow some of the struggles to increase in order to test us and in order to purify us.
So in the midst of those struggles, it is not something to complain about; it is rather something that we need to try to embrace. In the midst of the struggles, we need to keep our focus on Christ and ask ourselves, “Who really do we love more than anyone else? Who is the top priority in our life?” Are we going to remain faithful and continue to love God even in the midst of the struggles?
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.