Tuesday July 6, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Hosea 8:4-7, 11-13) Gospel (St. Matthew 9:32-38)
In the readings today, we see two different facets of the same problem. We have, on the one hand, the fact that the sheep are lying around without a shepherd. With no one to lead them, they do not know what to do and, consequently they get themselves into all kinds of problems. So that is the one half of it, which is exactly what we see in the Book of the Prophet Hosea when he talks about how the people of Samaria, which would be the area in the northern part of Israel (The people of Samaria were worshiping Baal. Baal is a calf, and so when it talks about the calf of Samaria that is what he is talking about), had wandered away from God, how they had even built altars to be able to expiate their sin and instead they used the altars to be able to offer sacrifice to idols, and all the problems the people would fall into. But it is not just merely the people; not only had they gone astray but their shepherds had gone astray. The Lord begins by saying, They made kings in Israel but not by My authority; they established princes but without My approval. Then we hear Our Lord telling us that they were like sheep without a shepherd. There was no one to guide them, no one to lead them. So we see that on both fronts there was a problem with both those who were in authority and those who were under the authority.
If those who are in authority do not lead according to the way of God, of course the people are going to be led astray. At the same time, one needs to ask the simple question: How much are we responsible for our own selves? There is a part where we can look at it and say that if we have shepherds who are not doing their job, yes, they are going to lead lots of people astray. Some of those people are innocent and they do not know. Some of them, it is willful and they want to be led astray. They do not want the truth and they have willfully rejected it; that is where these people are responsible for themselves. There is a whole other side, however, of people who should know better. They have access to all the truth; the catechism is right there for them. They have the ability to pick it up and read it if they want, but they have willfully chosen not to. And so they have become straying sheep by their own choice. These people will not be able to point their finger at the shepherds and say, “Well, they led me astray,” because they have willfully chosen it. They have also willfully chosen not to seek the truth. That truth is there for everyone; all one needs to do is look it up or ask a question to be able to find the truth.
We need to recognize that we have to take responsibility for our own selves. It is incumbent upon us to seek the truth, to be able to get on the right path so that we are walking the way of the Lord. Even if we do not have saintly shepherds – of course, there are some – but even if there is a dearth of them none of us has an excuse because we have 2,000 years of saints, we have Our Lord and we have Our Lady, and in our country we have enough books to be able to fill thousands upon thousands of libraries. We are without excuse because we can pick up a book and read it, we can listen to tapes, and we can do various things to help us along the way. It is all available to us if we want it; it is a matter of making the choice. We all know that we are supposed to be praying and spending a substantial amount of time in prayer everyday. If you do not, it is because you made the choice not to do it. You cannot say, “I didn’t see it happening in all these other people, so I didn’t do it either.” We know better than that. We all know that we are supposed to be praying. We all know that we are supposed to be following the truth. We cannot say, “Well, because the majority of people were living a pagan life, so did I.” We cannot say that because we know what we are supposed to be doing.
Remember that we have The Shepherd, and so even though some of our shepherds are not doing a very good job, we still have to follow the Good Shepherd. None of us will be able to say to Our Lord that we did not know. None of us will be able to say to the Lord, “I didn’t have the opportunity to learn or to know any differently.” We all know what the truth is and we all know where to find it. We all have examples, we all have thousands of saints who were faithful, so we are without excuse. We need to make sure we are seeking the Lord with our whole heart and soul and strength because we know where to find Him. If we choose not to, there is no one else to blame but ourselves because it was our choice to run around like chickens with our heads cut off or to lay around like sheep without a shepherd. Either way, the result is the same – You sow wind and you reap a whirlwind – but there will be no fruit because there is no prayer, because it is rooted in self and not in Christ. So each one of us needs to make that choice for our own selves. We need to make sure that we are seeking the Lord, that we are seeking the truth, and that we are putting it into practice because even though some of the shepherds are leading the wrong direction, the reality is that we all know who the Good Shepherd is and we know where to find Him. If we go astray, it is our own fault.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.