Tuesday December 2, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week of Advent
Reading (Isaiah 11:1-10) Gospel (St. Luke 10:21-24)
In the first reading today from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, we are told that a shoot will sprout from the stump of Jesse, telling us very clearly that what is going to happen is that the house of Jesse is going to be humbled. It is going to be destroyed, in essence, cut down, if you will. But what happens with an olive tree if you cut it down, it starts sending shoots up out of the stump that remains and the whole thing grows up all over again. And so what we are being told is that when the Messiah comes, the place that He is going to rise up from is going to be completely cut down. That is precisely what happened. The house of David was completely destroyed; it was the laughingstock at the time of Jesus. All of the promises that were made to David about a son being seated on his throne and all of these glorious things that God had promised appeared to be a complete farce because there had not been a king in Israel for quite some time at the time of the Lord, and the house of David really did not have a whole lot of authority or clout or anything glorious about it by the time that the Lord came. So again, we see how God fulfills everything that He promised. At the same time, as one would look at the house of David at that time, they would completely hold it in ridicule. They would not look up to it. They would not think anything of it. But those of simple faith, on the other hand, would be able to look at the promises God made to David and say, “Maybe I don’t understand but I believe.”
That is precisely what Our Lord is getting at in the Gospel today. He tells us that what had been hidden from the learned and the clever has been revealed to the childlike. Then He goes on to tell His apostles, “Blessed are your eyes because of what you see, and your ears because of what you hear. Many prophets and many kings desired to see what you see and to hear what you hear but did not hear them or see them.” The same is true of us. Many have longed to see what we see and to hear what we hear, that is, we have the Lord, we have the Scriptures, we have the Word of God, we have the teaching of the Church – we have everything.
We can also look at it from another perspective and the time in which we live to think about what the Fathers of the Church said: that the most blessed people of all time are going to be the ones who are alive when the Church is crucified. And I truly believe that is us. It is not going to be a fun time, but it is going to be a very blessed time: the grace that is going to be available to us and just the gift to be united with Our Lord in His passion and in His crucifixion. There is no price that can be put on such a gift and we need to be able to rejoice in it. All of the saints longed for that day and they did not see it. All of the saints longed to hear about the work that the Lord is doing but they did not hear it. But you do, because the Lord has chosen you for this time. For whatever reason, in His providence from all eternity, knowing the time and the place in which we live, He has chosen each one of us to be here and He is giving each one of us the grace to do the work that He has called us to do. He has given us the faith to be willing to say “yes” to whatever it is that He is going to ask of us.
So there is no reason to fear. There is no reason even to be concerned. All we need to do is pray and be faithful. That is all, because if we want to hear the voice of the Lord and if we want to see the work of the Lord the only way is in prayer. Otherwise, we are going to completely miss what it is that He is trying to do. It will be obvious to the whole world, but they are going to reject it. Only those of simple, childlike faith will be able to stand firm. And when the Church appears to be destroyed, that is when the new shoot is going to sprout and it will be glorious. What we have seen we will see again, just in a different form. But what a blessing for us that we have been called to live in a society that is completely filled with sin, that has completely rejected Christ. It would be much easier to be able to live our faith if we lived in a faith-filled society where everyone was Catholic and supported their faith. But it is not about having it easier; it is about the idea of being able to serve the Lord, not because everybody else is doing it and we are getting caught in the current, but because it is what we truly believe and we have to make that choice when it is not being upheld by our society.
That is the gift God has given to each and every one of us, and we need to be so grateful for the opportunity to live our faith in this time. Therefore, we also need to be very clear to make sure we are truly living the Faith and not trying to walk with one foot on both sides of the fence – it does not work very well – but to make the choice to serve Jesus Christ, to believe with childlike faith, and to be so blessed to see what we see and to hear what we hear from the voice of the Lord.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.