Monday November 8, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Titus 1:1-9) Gospel (St. Luke 17:1-6)
In the first reading today, Saint Paul, as he begins his Letter to Titus, tells us who he sees himself to be. That is, he is a slave of God; he is an apostle of Jesus Christ for the sake of the faith of God’s chosen ones. Then he goes on from there and talks about the recognition of religious truth, the hope of eternal life, that God, Who does not lie, promised long ago and revealed in the fullness of time. It is this truth, this faith, this promise that we have to uphold.
The difficulty that Our Lord points out in the Gospel is that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed we would be able to say to a tree, “Be uprooted and be planted in the sea,” and it would obey. Now the apostles received that answer as the answer to their request to increase their faith, and the Lord is letting them know that they really do not have much faith at all. If that was true of the apostles when we look at the extraordinary faith they had – of course, we see their faith after the Resurrection; we also know what they did beforehand – but when we hear the Lord telling His own apostles how little faith they had, what would He tell us if He were standing here right now? I have not seen very many trees moving anywhere, and I have not seen a whole lot of other things happening that require faith. It tells us that there probably is not very much.
The problem is, while we do have faith (that is, we believe what the Church teaches), for many of us it is a matter that we do not really put it into practice. We will acknowledge things like the fact that God can do anything He wants – He is all-powerful – but when it comes to praying, we really do not put that into practice. In fact, most of us use it as an excuse as to why our prayers probably are not going to be answered: “God can do anything He wants, but…” Well, if there is a “but” in there, it is because we do not have enough faith. It means we are not really asking what would be in accordance with the Will of God. So we begin to see very quickly what the problem is. The problem lies within our own selves.
It is a matter in this case not only of believing in the fullness of truth, certainly believing far more than just that generic idea that “Jesus is God and I love Him and isn’t that nice?” but it is also a matter of getting it from the head to the heart and putting it into practice. That is the tough part. And by putting it into practice, I do not mean merely the matter of putting it into the practice of just growing in virtue. We have to do that, but I am talking about putting our faith into practice by living what it is that we proclaim to believe. If we really believe in Who Jesus is, our lives are going to be different. If we really, truly believe in Him, we are going to allow that to get into our hearts and we are going to live in a relationship. We are going to have confidence. The word confidence means “with faith”. We are going to act in confidence in the Lord. We are going to believe what it is that He promised and we are going to put it into practice. Most of us do not. It is not that we do not believe what it is that He promised – we know what He promised; we have got it in our heads – but we do not practice it because it would require a change on our part.
In essence, we are keeping the Holy Spirit at an arm’s distance and we are not allowing Him in because we are afraid. We are afraid of what will happen to us if the Holy Spirit truly takes control of our lives. Of course, being control freaks, we do not want to let go of it either. But it is fear, and there is nothing to be afraid of. If we really believe in Who God is, why would we be afraid of what He is going to do to us? God is love. God is truth. He is not going to violate us. He is not going to do anything to us that is going to be bad. But we are afraid, so we need to pray. We need to pray that the truth we have in our heads will get translated into the heart and that what is objectively and theoretically known is going to be able to be put into practical reality so that we would truly live the faith we profess in its fullness. Not just in the parts that are a little bit more convenient to us, not just in the things that we recognize we ought to be doing, but in all of it, in the fullness of the truth that Jesus Christ has revealed to us. We need to accept it, but we need to put it into practice. Then we will have faith that might even be the size of a mustard seed.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.