Friday October 3, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Baruch 1:15-22) Gospel (St. Luke 10:13-16)
In the first reading today from the Book of the Prophet Baruch, we hear in the prayer of the exiles, as they are in Babylonia, and as they prayed to the Lord they said that from the time their ancestors “came forth from the land of Egypt until the present day, we have been only too disobedient to our God and only too ready to disregard His voice.” The Lord had made very clear in the Old Testament that there were certain things that the people absolutely must do and certain things that they absolutely must not do, and there were blessings and curses that God put upon the people. “If you do these things, you will be blessed. If, on the other hand, you do these things, you will be cursed.” To be cursed by God is not a particularly happy thought, and yet it is exactly what the people recognized. As they continued to pray, they recognized that the curses God had sworn would happen if they disobeyed His voice were happening to them. Remember, the prophet Jeremiah tells the people that the reason why they went into the Babylonian Exile is because they killed their babies. They offered their babies in sacrifice to demons. But there were lots of other things the people did, totally disregarding the voice of the Lord.
Well, now in the Gospel reading, the Lord says, “Whoever listens to you” –that is, the Church – “listens to Me. Whoever rejects you rejects Me. And whoever rejects Me rejects the One Who sent Me.” Well, all we need to do is look at what is going on in our society and we would have to say, “We only have been all too willing to reject the voice of God. We only have been all too willing to be disobedient to what God has told us to do.” So the Lord, in telling us these things, places it in a context; it is within the context of the cities where He did His work, where the majority of His miracles took place, and therefore He tells them that they are going to be condemned.
Now it was the people of Israel who saw the mighty works of God, the signs and wonders that He performed in the land of Egypt out in the desert. It was to them and to their children – who had the Sacred Scriptures, who lived in a society which passed down the stories that had occurred years before – so they knew; they were without excuse. This was not some pagan group someplace that had never heard of the Lord, even though natural law is written in their hearts and on their minds and they know the difference between right and wrong. These were people who knew the Lord. They knew what He had done, and they knew what they were supposed to do and what they were not supposed to do. It is precisely for that reason that the curse fell upon them.
We are no different. We are the people of God. We are the New Israel. We now have seen the signs and wonders of the Lord. We know what He has done in our lives, we know what He has done in the Church, we know what He has done in the world, and we have decided to disregard the voice of God and be disobedient and to do whatever we want to do instead of doing what God has asked of us. There are blessings and there are curses because the Word of God does not change. If we do not heed the voice of the Lord, our God, the curses that He has promised are going to fall upon us, and we have only been too quick to disregard the voice of the Lord. Therefore, the things that are happening in the world are precisely because humanity has chosen to disregard God’s voice, and the curses that He swore are falling upon the world.
The worst thing, remember, that anybody can endure is for God simply to let them go their own way. Well, it is not just in the life of an individual that God is allowing that now; it is in the lives of countries and in the lives of the whole world – He is just simply letting them go. Rather than calling them back, rather than punishing them, rather than chastising them for what they are doing and bringing them back to reason – because He has done it over and over again and we have still disregarded it – now He has just simply allowed it to go. And He is going to allow it to implode upon itself because that is exactly what will happen if we keep going on the path we are going. He will intervene, but He is not going to intervene until the fruit of what we have planted comes to fruition. So we need to pray, and we need to pray hard that God will intervene soon because this cannot continue for very long. We need to be obedient, we need to hear the voice of the Lord, and we need to act upon what God has asked of us.
We are a strange group of people. Well, I guess we are not; we are just like all the rest. We want to do whatever we want to do and we want God’s blessings on top of it. We want to be completely disobedient, we want to make the rules, we want to “play god” and we want to tell Him that He is supposed to shower us with graces and blessings and do all the other things we want Him to do. It does not work that way. We need to remember Who is God and who is not. And we need to stop allowing Satan to be in control. We need to listen to the voice of God, because if we do not listen to the Church we are not listening to Christ. And if we are not listening to Christ we have rejected God the Father Who sent Him. Then all the signs and wonders that He has worked in our lives, in the Church, and in the world will be a witness against us. He will look at us and say, “Woe to you! If this had happened in the worst places in the world, in Tyre, in Sidon, if this had happened in Sodom and Gomorrah, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes.” But we have not, as a nation, as a people, as a world. Will we be exalted to the heavens? We will be condemned to hell if we continue on the path that we are going. It is just that simple. Individuals within certainly will not be. But we have chosen the wrong path as a nation and as a world. So as individuals we need to stand against it, and it is quite a tide, quite a current that is pushing against us. And so the only way is to pray, to listen to the voice of God, and to be obedient.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.