Do We Want to be Just Like Everyone Else?
Friday January 16, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Samuel 8:4-7, 10-22a) Gospel (St. Mark 2:1-12)
In the first reading today, we hear about the people desiring a king. As Samuel goes to pray about what the people are requesting, God tells Samuel to grant the people’s request because, He says, “It is not you they are rejecting; it is Me they are rejecting as their king.” In Israel, God Himself was set up as the king, but the people fell into the perennial trap that all of us tend to fall into as well: We want to be just like everyone else. That was their argument. “We need to have a king because we want to be just like everyone else with a king to rule over us and lead us out into battle and to do all these things – just like everyone else.” Well, this is the problem. They were the chosen people of God. They were to live in a different way than everybody else; they were to look different from everyone else; they were to act differently than everyone else. But who likes to do that? We want to be just like everyone else.
The Lord now, for us, is calling us to a different way of life. He calls each one of us to holiness. He calls us to dress in a way that is different from what our society presents. He asks us to live in a way, speak in a way, and act in a way that is different from what the vast majority of people are doing. And even though we know it is right, we stick out like a sore thumb. People think we are strange because we are not like everyone else. So we do exactly what the Israelites did, we say, “We want to be just like everyone else.” And Our Lord, we see His humility in the way that He handles things. He says, “Grant the people’s request. You want to be like everyone else, go ahead. You’re not going to like it; it’s going to cost you dearly.” For us today, we would have to say that if we want to be like everyone else we are going to go backwards in the spiritual life, we are going to lose the virtue that we have gained, we are going to become rather profligate just like the rest; and yet, we say, “We don’t care. We want to be just like everyone else.” The Lord will look at us and say, “But it is Me that you are rejecting.” And we say, “We just want to be like everyone else.” And so He says, “Go ahead.”
Of course, when we do these things, we give into sin, we give into all the worldliness and materialism and all the selfishness, we become miserable just like everyone else, and then we complain because God does not seem to want to listen to our prayers. He is not hearing us when we ask Him for things. Why would He? We have already rejected Him. We already told Him we do not want to do it His way. We want to “play god” and we want to do what we want to do. He is just supposed to be hanging out there for whenever we want to call upon Him because He is supposed to be the magical one who will tell us – or answer, at least – what we want. When we come to Him and demand something, He should be right there so that He will do whatever we want Him to do. We have got everything rather backwards, but you can see the effect of sin. The devil has had quite a field day and so he convinces us that it is only in our own best interest to reject God and His ways so that we can be like everyone else. And then He convinces us that because God does not answer some of the requests that we make, which oftentimes tend to be very selfish anyway, that He really does not love us because He is not doing what we want Him to do. My recollection is that we are supposed to do what He wants us to do, not that He is supposed to do what we want Him to do. But these minor little details do not seem to get in the way of our desire to reject Him and to think that He should do whatever we want Him to do.
We need to look pretty hard at what we are doing. How much are we trying to be like everyone else? Or, to put it the other way, how much are we really seeking the Will of God in our lives? How much do we really want to do what God wants us to do? Otherwise, we are going to be like those scribes who are sitting there thinking odd thoughts in their minds and we are going to murmur against God. But when the truth is all out, when all is said and done, it is going to be very evident to everyone on the face of the earth who was right and who was wrong. For those who knew better and who wanted to be just like everyone else, that is what is going to happen to them: They will be just like everyone else for eternity. They will curse the day that they rejected God and they will spend all eternity just like everyone else, rejecting God and doing whatever they want. That is where our choices are going to lead us.
And so we can look at our own lives and ask ourselves, not, “Am I rejecting God outright and saying that I don’t believe in Him?” but rather, “Where am I rejecting God because I’m rejecting His Will? Where am I rejecting God in my life because I want to do it my way rather than His way? Where am I rejecting God in my life because I want to be just like everyone else rather than being what God wants me to be?” Those are the real questions we need to look at. The devil is too smart to ask us to just out-and-out reject God completely. And then we convince ourselves that because we still believe in God we have not rejected Him. The people of Israel never stopped believing that God existed; they just plain rejected Him in the way that they wanted to live. We are no different. That is what we need to look at because when it all comes down to it and we reject God, that is not going to be just a temporary thing, that will lead us to eternity and that is what it really is all about. So look very seriously and ask yourself, “Where am I rejecting God in my life?” and change that now before it is too late so we can accept God and accept His ways and do His Will in our lives now so that will lead us to eternity with God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.