Monday January 12, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Samuel 1:1-8) Gospel (St. Mark 1:14-20)
In the readings today, we see very clearly that the way God operates and the way we expect Him to operate are not always the same thing. For instance, in the first reading we see that the woman God had chosen for a very special purpose – to give birth to a prophet – He had left barren. Year after year after year, and day after day, she had to suffer the abuse of the other woman who had many children and would make it a reproach against Hannah because she was without child. She had to bear the mental and emotional torture every single day, not only that she could not have children but that she had to put up with somebody else rubbing it in. And God used this.
Now, one would think if God was going to bless this woman so abundantly that she would have lots of children. After all, this was the desire of her heart, and if she was the one God had chosen why would He make things difficult for her? Precisely to form her, to prepare her for what it was that she needed to do. We think of other people in the Scriptures. We think of somebody like Sarah, for instance, who did not give birth until she was 90. You can think of Elizabeth, the mother of Saint John the Baptist, who, we are told, was well beyond the years of childbirth, so she was probably somewhere in her 60’s before she gave birth. They had to put up with a lot of difficulty prior to the Lord blessing them. It was to accept God’s Will, it was to be formed by the suffering, and it was to seek God rather than the self.
That is something all of us need to learn because one of our arguments against the Lord is: “Doesn’t He want this? After all, look at what I’m asking for; it’s good. I’m not asking for anything evil, why doesn’t He give me what I want?” Maybe because He wants to form you. Maybe because He loves you so much that He knows that, even though what you are asking for is very good, it may not be the best. Or it may just be that the timing is off and He will give you what you are asking for eventually, but not yet. We do not know. But the hard part for us is to accept, to be able to let go of our own will and do God’s Will because we know what we want, and what God wants, suddenly, does not seem to matter quite as much because if it is not what we want then we get upset. And so God has to work with us and He has to form us. He has to teach us through the difficulties and the sufferings of life to be able to let go of what our own will is so that we can do His Will. You look at the Gospel reading and you have the call of Peter, James, and John. He is asking them to leave their business. He is asking them to leave their families. Again, not something that one would expect but that is exactly what happened. It is the same principle: God does not necessarily work the way we expect that He is going to.
So for us, the lesson we need to learn in this, first of all – and what is most important, is that we need to put aside our preconceived notions and we need simply to open our hearts and seek the Will of God. That is all, because our fulfillment, our happiness, everything is going to be found only in doing the Will of God, which is not the way most of us seem to think anyway. We think our happiness will be found when we get to do our own will. If by now we have not figured out that does not lead to happiness, well, then we have a lot more suffering we are going to have to endure before we figure it out. Only in God’s Will are we going to be fulfilled, and so we simply need to seek His Will. We need to be willing to say to Him, “I will be willing to do whatever You want me to do; just say the word. Just show me what You want and I will do it.” Now that is hard for us. It is easy for us to say, but to really mean it is a whole different matter because we are very much attached to ourselves, to our own ideas, to the way we want things done and the way we think things ought to be done. So to get to the point of really meaning that we will do whatever God wants is something that is very hard for us, but that will come only through prayer. Again, put aside the preconceived notions, go to prayer, seek the Will of God – and then do it.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.