Wednesday November 26, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Daniel 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28)
Gospel (St. Luke 21:12-19)
We hear Our Lord’s words in the Gospel today that we are going to be handed over even by parents, relatives, and friends, and that some will be thrown into prison, some will be brought before judges, and some are even going to be put to death. And He tells us two important things. First of all, we are not to prepare a defense beforehand; God will give us the words and the wisdom we need at the time. Now when we look at some of the martyrs of the past, they did not say a word. They just simply prayed and praised God. Some of them, as they were going to their martyrdom, sang the Salve Regina and with great joy they went to their martyrdom. Some like Saint Justin Martyr were able to give long and eloquent witness to the faith and testimony to God before the pagans. We do not know how God is going to work. For some, it was the words that were the testimony. For others, there were no words but rather it was by the way they went to their martyrdom that they gave witness to God. We do not know how God is going to work in each person’s life. We just need to trust; He has made the promise and He will do it. It is a matter of serving Him – that is what is important – and keeping our focus on where it belongs. He told us also that not even one hair on our heads is going to be destroyed, but all are going to hate us. This is a time that we are going to endure. We will see this in our own life and we need to be prepared.
When we look at the first reading, we see that God allows Himself to appear to be weak. Nebuchadnezzar had gone into Jerusalem; he had destroyed the temple; he had stolen the gold and silver vessels, brought them to his own temple treasury, and put them in the temple of his own pagan gods. And now his son is drinking out of the vessels. It appears that the one true God must not be all that strong. Why didn’t He do something? Why did He allow the pagans just to walk right into His temple? Why did He allow them to take the gold and silver vessels from the temple? Why didn’t He stand up and do something? Well, first, it was because of the sins of the people of Israel; but, secondly, He was allowing it because of the purification of the people of Israel. They really had to look very seriously at their own faith – Did they really believe in God? – because they had not been living that faith. They had not been doing what they were supposed to do.
I daresay that this is exactly what we have in the Roman Catholic Church today. The vast majority of people who want to call themselves Catholic are not living their faith. They make a vague profession of some sort of belief in God but they are not living it. They are far more interested in living in a worldly way than anything else. The bishops of America, when they met a couple of weeks ago, came out with a statistic that even I found astounding. When the bishops decided that they were going to write a letter about contraception, they said that only four percent – count it, FOUR PERCENT – of Catholics are living according to the Church’s teaching regarding Christian marriage, the holy Sacrament of Matrimony. Four percent of the Catholics are living according to the Church’s teaching. So we want to call ourselves “Catholic” but we do not want to be Catholic. We say that we profess our faith in God but we do not want to act on it. This is the problem. And then we wonder why God would allow the Church to be destroyed. Why would God allow the Freemasons and their pals to come walking right into the Church and steal whatever it is they want? Because the people are making a mockery out of God and out of the Faith that He Himself has revealed. That is why it will happen: because we just do not want to believe.
And for those who are being faithful to God, it is going to be a wonderful opportunity for purification and to give witness to God. But even in the midst of what God allowed for the people of Israel, as they were even taken into exile and they were made to live in a foreign land, they were given an opportunity to really put their faith into practice when they were being forced to live according to pagan ways. And not just living in a pagan land, but they were being forced to worship pagan gods; and if they did not, they would be put to death. They had to make a choice of what they were going to do. We too will have to make a similar choice in the not too distant future.
But even in the midst of that, we see in the first reading what God did when they finally used the vessels from the temple for their disgusting rituals. God wrote on the wall to let them know that their day had come, to let them know that He is the all-powerful God and that He has allowed this. He has allowed Himself to appear weak – not because He is weak – but because the people’s faith was weak. So too for us, we need to realize that the things that will be happening have nothing to do with the weakness of God. It has to do with the weakness of the bishops, the priests, and the people of the Roman Catholic Church who have not lived the faith that they are called to live. The bishops and the priests have not upheld it and the people have not lived it. The purification that is going to come upon the Church is precisely because of that fact, and we will each have to make a decision as to what we are going to do. We will have the glorious opportunity to give witness to Jesus Christ. And remember His words: If you deny Me before men, I will deny you before My Father in heaven. It is a pretty obvious choice that we have to make but it may not be an easy one, because if we are accustomed to living not according to the ways of God but to the ways of the world, when it comes right down to it we may wimp out. We need to make sure that we are living our life today and everyday for Jesus Christ so when that day comes the grace of the Holy Spirit will be given us and we will be able to witness before kings, magistrates, and before the whole world of our faith in Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.