Monday October 6, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Jonah 1:1-2:1-2, 11) Gospel (St. Luke 10:25-37)
In the first reading, we hear about the prophet Jonah whom God calls to go preach to the people of Nineveh. Jonah, of course, runs the other direction and finds a ship to Tarshish, which means the farthest place away that he could possibly find. He gets on that ship to try to flee from what the Lord is asking him to do. Then the Lord sends a tempest upon the sea and finally Jonah is thrown in and the whale swallows him up.
Now we look at this and try to apply it to our own lives and say, “What does this mean for us?” It is actually very, very important for us because it is exactly what most of us do. When God asks us to do something, we run the other direction. It is not that God brings a tempest upon the sea and we get tossed in, but what He does is He allows chaos to take over our soul because if we are trying to pray and we are trying to do His Will – generically, that is – and suddenly we find ourselves fleeing from Him on some particular point, what will happen is that there is going to be this internal chaos, this tension within, because on one hand we are telling God that we want to do His Will and on the other hand we are running from Him. And so the chaos ensues and we find ourselves thrown right into the midst of it. What most of us wind up doing is, rather than doing what God wants, we are just like Jonah and it gets worse. We throw ourselves into past sins, things that we do not normally do anymore. We find ourselves getting into stupid things, eating everything in sight, spending hours and hours and hours in front of the TV, going shopping, doing anything to get away from the Lord and to try to make ourselves feel better. Somehow we think that the consolation of having a full belly or buying something new or going out and doing something that is going to bring some kind of selfish pleasure is going to make us feel better. But, of course, it only makes the chaos worse. Until we face what it is that God is asking, nothing is going to make it better. It is just like Jonah, he finally said, “Throw me into the sea. Throw me right into the chaos.” It is exactly what we wind up doing to ourselves: “Throw me right into my sinfulness.” That is not the way to go.
What we need to do is turn and ask the Lord, “What is it that You want?” It usually is one of just a few things. He is either asking you to give something up or He is asking you to do something or He is asking you to go deeper in the prayer life. It is one of those three things. It is just that simple. And, of course, we have all experienced that when we finally do what God is asking there is peace and there is calm. Then we kick ourselves and say, “So what was my problem? Why was I fighting Him? I’m much better off than I was before.” Not simply because the chaos is gone, but because we recognize that this was the right thing to do and there is a great peace that comes from doing what God wants.
So in the Gospel when this lawyer answers Jesus that the greatest commandment in the law is to love God with your whole heart and soul and strength, that is exactly what it means, to seek the Will of God and to do it. It is exactly what we need to be about. That is what Jesus told this man at the end: “Go and do likewise.” If you know what God’s Will is, do it. Easy to say, not so easy to do because we are so attached to ourselves. It is love God and love neighbor, but we love ourselves – and that is what needs to change. We need to get away from that and change where our priorities are. Just trust. God wants only what is the best. If we are willing to do His Will, we are going to find only the best. It does not always look like what we want at the moment, but when we do it we will be at peace because we will find that what He wanted was really the best for us and we will be able to rejoice in it. When we go through what Jonah went through enough times, we will finally recognize that every single time we ran away from God, which are manifold in all of our lives, all we did was get ourselves into sin; and every time we did what He wanted us to do, it worked perfectly and it brought peace. So if there is chaos in your life, if the seas around you are turbulent, just go into the heart and ask God, “What am I running away from? What is it that You are asking me to do?” Find His Will, and do it.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.