Tuesday July 27, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Jeremiah 14:17-22) Gospel (St. Matthew 13:36-43)
In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah, looking at all of the things that were happening to Israel at his time, asks the Lord, Why have You struck us a blow that cannot be healed? He talks about how we wait for peace but to no avail, for a time of healing but terror comes instead. How often we have all been able to repeat those same sorts of things as we look around in our society and we wonder, “How long is this going to last? When is this going to change? When are people going to get turned around? When are things in the Church going to get better?” We can ask all those questions and the fact is that it just keeps getting worse. The reason for that, I think, is seen very clearly in the Gospel reading. The Lord has chosen those whom He wants for Himself, and the devil has chosen those whom he wants. We would think that the Lord ought to send lightning down, strike these people dead, and get them out of the way – “If they want to do evil, well, let them go and be with Satan and do evil, but leave us alone” – but that is not the way the Lord works. He allows the weeds and the wheat to grow together.
As you know if you have a garden, the weeds kind of take over. They usually flower first. So if you look at the garden, oftentimes you cannot even see the plants that you put there yourself because the weeds have overrun them. But in time what will happen is that all the plants you want are going to begin to flower and they too will grow to maturity. Even though you will have lost many of the plants that you put in to the weeds, the fact of the matter is that those that do survive are going to be very hardy because they had to fight to be able to maintain.
The same is true in the spiritual life. If everything was perfect and everything was godly, we would think that we were among the greatest saints that have ever lived because everything would be directed in the right way. It would not be a problem for us to be able to pray, to be able to think of God all day long, to be able to do what is right and be upright in all our actions and all our thoughts because that would be all around us. The reality of that, of course, is that we would be very, very weak but we would not know it because everything around us would be supporting us even though we were very weak. And so the Lord allows all these other things to take place in the world to test us, to strengthen us, and to purify us so that we will find out the reality of just how saintly we are – or, for most of us, how saintly we are not – and how much we need to grow. As we look around and see all these weeds that are flowering, we begin to despair; instead of looking at God, we look at the weeds. That is the part we need to change.
In order to grow in this garden, we need to be strong, we have to be able to fight for what it is that we need for nourishment, that is, we have to make a choice, we have to make it the priority. The weeds are going to try to take all the nutrients and all the water from us, but if we make it the priority we will be able to get what we need. So we have to make that choice. God has planted you as wheat in His garden, according to the parable. Now we can look around at all the problems and all the ugly things, and they are all real and they are all out there, or we can look at God. If we look at all the weeds and all the ugly stuff, we get angry, we despair, and we wonder why. Then we get choked off because we are allowing the weeds to have the better part. If, on the other hand, we keep our focus on the Lord, we make the time for prayer, we are seeking Him with our whole heart, and we are making the effort to live the life that we profess, then we are going to find everything we need. We will not be choked off, but instead we will flourish. Instead of being choked off and dying because of our anger and bitterness or because of our despair, we will be able to produce thirty and sixty and a hundredfold for the Lord because those stalks of wheat will be very strong and very, very hardy. And it is in that that we find who we really are, and we know that our only hope is in the Lord. It is not in ourselves, it is not in society, it is not in any human person – it is in God alone and it is to Him that we must look.
So rather than asking, “Why?” and being angry, the better thing to do is just to put yourself in front of the Blessed Sacrament and keep your focus on Jesus. When you are out in the world in the midst of all the weeds, just keep your focus on the Lord. As long as your heart is focused on Him, all of the nourishment you need to be able to grow tall and strong will be right there. He will provide for you everything that you need to produce a great harvest, fruit that will last.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.