Wednesday July 7, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Hosea 10:1-3, 7-8, 12) Gospel (St. Matthew 10:1-7)
In the first reading today, the prophet Hosea begins by saying, Israel is a luxuriant vine whose fruit matches its growth, and having looked at that he says, The more abundant their fruit, the more altars they built; the more productive the land, the more sacred pillars they set up. Well, this would be fine if these were altars to the Lord and sacred pillars in honor of God; they were not. What tends to happen is that when people are hurting they turn to God, but when things are easy they turn to anything else. For some odd reason, the devil has the ability of convincing us that in good times we do not really need God. Either we can do it on our own, or else it was someone else providing all the good things (what we think are good things) and it was not God and so we do not need to worship Him, we do not need to serve Him, we do not need to pray because, after all, we got what we needed (or at least what we wanted, and what we really needed we walked away from).
We need to see that pattern because if we do not we are going to set our own selves up for disaster. If we think back to times in our lives, perhaps when things were difficult, we will find that we were probably praying a fair amount, but when things are pretty easy, many of us stop doing that, or at least we cut way back because we do not need God the way we used to. We still want Him in our lives, but we do not really need Him all that much. I might recommend that we need Him far more when times are pretty easy than we do when times are difficult because it is precisely when times are easy for us that we are relying on ourselves, we are relying on our money, we are relying on other people or other things, and that is precisely what leads us astray.
God says to the people of Israel in the first reading that He is going to tear down their altars and He is going to destroy all their sacred poles. They would look at the Lord and say, “We have no king,” but Hosea says, “They have no fear of the Lord, what’s a king going to do for them?” The kings only served, other than two of them, to lead them into more bad things. It is once again the same point as we saw yesterday that there is a matter of taking responsibility for our own selves. We will not be able to point to the Supreme Court, to the Legislature, or to the President on the Day of Judgment and say, “But look at what they did!” That is not the issue; the issue has to do with what we did. And so we will look at the same thing and we will realize that in America there is very little fear of God, so what difference would it make? When the Holy Father speaks, they laugh, they ignore him; even the bishops do the same. The Holy Father puts out letters saying, “This is exactly what is supposed to happen,” and nothing happens. We see that they have completely ignored even the direction of the Church. They do not want to listen because there is no fear of God. They are into their own power and they do not want God. Tragically, neither do most of the people.
That, again, comes right back to our own selves. How much do we want God? Do we really want to serve Him? Do we really want to do His Will? If so, then we need to make it our own priority. We have to make that decision because we know better. We know Who He is and we know how much we need Him. We have to make that decision because no one else is going to do it for us, and we will have no one to blame. We need to pray for that fear of the Lord. You see the same message in the Gospel today. Jesus sent His apostles out to preach the word that the kingdom of God is at hand. We have a choice to make. The kingdom of God is at hand. The time is short, and we either have to choose God or we have to choose against Him. Not choosing God at an arm’s distance away or just to give Him lip service; that is not going to work. If we are going to choose the Lord, then we need to serve the Lord. If we are going to choose ourselves, we are going to serve ourselves. So we can just look at our day-to-day lives and we can ask, “Whom have I chosen? Whom do I serve?” Is it ourselves? Is it God? Is it something or someone else? It will be pretty evident if we just pay attention to what we do in our day-to-day lives. We will give lip service to God, most of us, but we do not pray, we do not look to Him, we do not seek to serve Him; yet, we talk about Him. That is not choosing God and it is not serving Him.
So we have to make that choice. We are, in America, a luxuriant vine. We are very wealthy and we are glutted, and we have set up lots of sacred pillars and altars to false gods of a variety of kinds – maybe not physical altars, but altars in our hearts – and they need to be torn down because there should be only one altar there, and that is the altar to the one, true, and living God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.