Monday July 19, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Micah 6:1-4, 6-8) Gospel (St. Matthew 12:38-42)
In the Gospel reading today, we hear about these scribes and Pharisees coming to Our Lord and asking Him for a sign, and the Lord tells them that no sign is going to be given except for His own death and resurrection. We know, of course, that Our Lord worked many signs and wonders in His lifetime, but the fact is that people were not going to believe it anyway. So it was the unfaithful ones who were coming to Him and testing Him. He worked the signs and wonders for those who would be humble, for those who would be faithful, for those who would recognize what it was that He did. But for those who were seeking it simply for their own amusement or for their own personal gain, He was not going to do that because their motive was wrong; their heart was in the wrong place.
Now He looks at each one of us and He is going to say to us the exact same thing. If we are seeking things for the wrong reason, He is not going to do them. We know that when we first start to turn our lives around to the Lord that our motives are still very selfish, and He will do many wonderful things just in order to prove to us that He is there, that this is real. Then He tends to back off after that and require that we truly grow in faith. But if we have been walking this path for a while, He is going to tell us exactly what He told the people of Israel, that we do not have to do all kinds of extraordinary things, but He what is looking for is that we will love justice, that we will practice goodness, and that we will walk humbly with the Lord. Those are the things He is looking for. And if we are willing to do those things, the Lord will take care of everything else.
But those are not easy things to do because our society is very much corrupt, and so justice is something that is not a normal part of life in this society. Dishonesty? Yes. Selfishness? Yes. Justice? No. Goodness? What we have decided is good in this society is evil. All kinds of selfish things and all kinds of evil things – sinful things that bring pleasure and consolation – we have decided that that is the ultimate good. It is all about the self. It is about “What do I get out of this? It doesn’t matter who I trample on.” All that matters is the self. The Lord is saying that we have to practice goodness, that we have to love what is right and good, but our society has rejected that. And then to walk humbly with God means to be obedient; it means to be small; it means to be accepting of God’s ways. Once again, these are not American virtues, so for us to be able to do this requires an awful lot on our part. It is going to require some pretty intense prayer because none of us is going to be able to do anything close to this without prayer. And it is going to require that we read the Scriptures, that we know what God is asking of us, that we seek to try to live out God’s Will for us.
Again, we need to be very careful because our natural response is to say, “Of course I’m trying to do God’s Will,” but the reality is that we do what God wants when it is convenient, when what God wants just happens to be what we wanted, then we want to do what God wants; but if God wants something other than what we want, we do not want to do what God wants. So we begin to see that this idea of walking humbly with the Lord and doing His Will is not such an easy thing for us. Even to love justice and goodness and what is right is not easy for us! When there is an injustice done to us, oh boy, then look out! But then we turn right around and become thoroughly unjust toward others and we try to rationalize our way around it. It cannot cut both ways. We have to learn to be just. We have to truly seek what is right and good. We have to be humble. That is what the Lord is looking for.
When we are willing to do those things, there will be extraordinary things that will happen because we are not seeking any sign or wonder for ourselves, but rather we are seeking only to do God’s Will. And when we are seeking God’s Will, He will take care of everything for us. But as long as we are seeking ourselves, it is not going to happen. He will let us walk our own way if we do not want to walk His way. So that is the challenge. This is an evil and unfaithful generation, and no sign is going to be given it. A chastisement is going to be given it, but no sign – because they do not want it. There will be extraordinary things that are going to happen very soon in our own day, but people will reject it because it is not going to be what they want. It is not going to be what they think it should be. We simply need to keep our hearts focused on the Lord and we will see the extraordinary works of God, but to keep our hearts focused on the Lord implies those same things that Micah told us in the first reading: to love justice, to practice goodness, and to walk humbly with our God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.