Friday June 11, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Acts 11:21b-26; 13:1-3) Gospel (St. Matthew 10:7-13)
In the first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard that in Antioch the people were fasting and praying. And in the midst of their fasting and praying, they understood that the Holy Spirit was asking them to set aside Barnabas and Paul to go do the work for which God had called them. One of the questions that we have to look at is – What is God asking of me? We always have to wonder. Sometimes, of course, it is crystal clear; that is, whatever the state of your life is, whatever your vocation happens to be, the duties of your state in life are required. The question is – Is God asking an apostolate beyond that? How are you going to know? For most of us, what we tend to do is assume that if something sort of falls right in front of us that must be what God wants. It is not necessarily so. And so the way is made very clear: fasting and prayer.
Our Lady, in all the apparitions that the Church has approved, usually asks for the same thing: “Fast and pray.” The Church asks that we would do the same. It is so important that the Mother of God is going to come from heaven and ask us to fast and pray, not only so that we would know what we are supposed to do, but also for the good of others. If we are willing to fast and pray, that is going to have an effect on the world, and it is going to have an effect on individual lives, our own first and foremost, and then the lives of others, people for whom we are praying, people for whom we are offering our suffering. It is made very clear in the Scriptures that this is the way the apostles did things, it is the way things were done in the early Church, it is the way things have been done for centuries, and it is more than ever necessary today.
Now when we hear what Our Lord sent His apostles to do – “Proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons” – well, the Lord told them exactly what He wanted them to do. He does not necessarily do that with us in quite as clear a way, but yet each one of us is being called by God. For each one of us, we have to realize that the Holy Spirit is speaking to say, “Set aside this person for the work for which I have called him or her to do.” You have been called by God, and He is asking of you something very specific, but we do not know what it is.
Sometimes it may simply be to pray. That is the single most important thing in the entire world. There is nothing that is more important than that. It does not matter what the needs of the world are, there is nothing more important than prayer because the people who are being called to do those other works will not be able to accomplish them if they do not have people praying. God did not call everyone in Antioch to go out and become missionaries, but He called them all to pray for the missionaries that were sent out. And so we all have to pray. If you have a specific apostolate that you know of, you need to pray so you can do it. But if your call is simply to pray, it is so that others will be able to do what they are supposed to do, so that souls will be converted, so that others will be saved, and that those who are out in the field doing the work are going to have the grace they need to be able to work.
Perhaps God is calling you to a certain kind of suffering to share in His Passion, to share in the Cross. Then it is to accept it and offer it up rather than to fight it. Perhaps He is asking something that is very specific. There are some people who have a gift of being able to talk to others to invite them, to bring others to the Church and to conversion, to pull them back to Confession. He may not be asking that you go to a foreign country or anyplace other than your own surroundings, but maybe just to talk to people, to be a good example to them. Maybe it is to help the poor, to feed the hungry, to take care of specific things, whatever it may be.
But, once again, if it is not deeply rooted in prayer, it is going to be a failure because if it is not what God wants (because you did not pray it through to know if it was what God wanted) then you are doing what you want. And if you do not have prayer – even to do what God wants you to do – you are not going to be able to accomplish the task. It would be like deciding that you are going to build a house, and you quit your job so that you can build a house. Well, you will run out of money real quickly and you are going to wonder why you cannot build your house. It is because you did not have anything to pay for it. The same is true with the work we are called to do. If we are doing God’s work and we are not praying, we are going to run out of gas and wonder why the car is not moving when we did not pull into a gas station. Well, if we do not fuel up, we are not going anywhere. We have a real fancy car and it can go real fast, but if there is no gas in it, it is not going anywhere.
God is calling you, and He is calling you to something specific. The question that each one of us has to ask is – What is it? That will only be answered in prayer, and it will only be supported by prayer. So regardless of what it is, the means is the same: Prayer. Deep, profound, interior prayer is the only way we are going to know what God wants and it is the only way we are going to be able to fulfill what God is asking of us. And so that is what is laid out for us – prayer and fasting – so that we can know the Will of God and do it.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.