Wednesday September 24, 2003 Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Ezra 9:5-9) Gospel (St. Luke 9:1-6)
In the first reading today from the Book of Ezra, we hear Ezra getting up and beginning to pray to God as he recognizes what the Lord had done for them bringing them back from exile, from a place of slavery, to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and have all expenses paid and be protected and all the things that were afforded to them. He begins by saying “I arose in my wretchedness,” and he says, “Lord, I am too ashamed and confounded to raise my face to You for our wicked deeds have heaped up above our heads and our guilt rises up to Heaven.” He sees very clearly that it is because of their sins that they went into exile. The prophet Jeremiah made that very, very clear. They went into exile because they killed their babies, because they offered their babies in sacrifice to a demon. That was the reason Jeremiah told the people that they went into exile. So we see the astounding mercy of God, how in our sinfulness, in the midst of the most hideous of sins, God will certainly allow the punishment, He will allow the justice to be done – that is, the natural consequences of our sins and even the supernatural consequences of our sins are going to come upon us – and yet God is merciful.
There is not one of us sitting here today who can say, “Well, it makes perfect sense that I have such faith that I can come to Mass every morning and I can worship the Lord and I can have all of these things and be in the state of grace and I can have Heaven as my inheritance. Of course it makes sense, what else would God do for me, being as wonderful as I am?” We all know better than that. We have to say the same thing: We do not deserve this, our sins heap up to Heaven, our guilt rises above our heads, and yet it is the mercy of God that has brought us here. It is the mercy of God and only the mercy of God that has placed into our hearts the desire to love Him and the faith to be able to say “yes” to Him and to put that faith into practice. That is His grace and solely His grace.
Now when we see this example from the Old Testament times and when we see what the Lord tells His disciples – that they are to go out on this journey and they are not to take any money, they are not to take any extra sandals or cloak or anything else, that they are simply to trust God, not even to take food, just to trust –we get worried about that. We think, “Oh, I don’t know if I can really do that.” Yet somehow we have got this funny idea that we can trust God to forgive sin, which has infinite consequences, but we cannot trust Him to provide for our measly little difficulties and problems in life. We cannot trust Him that He will provide for all the things we need when He is willing to bail us out of our wretchedness and our sinfulness in order to raise us up and bring us to Himself and give Himself to us in Holy Communion? Will He not provide for us everything else besides, if we are really seeking to do His Will?
We have to remember the simple principle: God will never be outdone in generosity. If we are being generous with Him in the way we are living our lives, He is going to be far more generous with us. And so if we are seeking His way and seeking to live our Faith and seeking to bring Him into the world, He will take care of us. That does not mean He is going to make it easy. The Psalmist made that rather clear; it says, “He scourges and then has mercy.” I think we all know that well too. Yet it is the mercy of God that we need to hang onto because that is the only reason any of us is here, and that is the only way any of us is going to go to Heaven. That is what we need to look to. Not just generically to be able to say, “Well, yeah, I know I have to trust in God’s mercy if I want to go to Heaven.” We need to trust in God’s mercy if we want to make it to the next minute.
And so we have got this strange dichotomy within ourselves that somehow we can trust God in the things that are the biggest – to forgive sin and to bring us to Heaven – but we cannot trust Him in the small day-to-day things. The Lord told us just the opposite: “If you are trustworthy in small things then you can be trusted in the big things.” But we do not trust God with the small things. We need to get that turned around because if we do not trust Him in the small things, when it comes right down to it we are not going to trust Him in the big ones either. So we need to learn that trust. We need to see His mercy, and it should be blatantly obvious in each one of our lives. We need to learn to trust that mercy and we need to learn to trust God completely, that He will take care of us and of our every need, that He will bring us out of our sinfulness and into His glory if we are willing to trust and do what He asks us to do. It really is just that simple. If we would put everything in His hands and do it His way, everything else will be taken care of as well.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.