To Be Perfected, We Must Suffer
Wednesday May 18, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Sirach 4:11-19) Gospel (St. Mark 9:38-40)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells His apostles that no one can work a mighty deed in His name and then speak ill of Him, and then goes on to say, Anyone who is not against us is for us. We look around at our situation as it is and there are lots of people who will call upon the Name of the Lord; but, at the same time, as yet they do not believe in the fullness of the truth. But if they are true in calling upon the Lord, they will come to that truth eventually if they are truly seeking it. That, of course, is where the difficulty comes. They do not necessarily willfully speak ill of the Lord, although many of them do wind up speaking ill of His Church, and in that way speaking ill of the Lord without even realizing that is what they are doing. Yet, at the same time, what we are also seeing is that there are lots of people who call upon the Name of the Lord and they are becoming Catholic because they are open to the truth and they are seeking that truth.
That is precisely what we hear in the first reading when we hear about Wisdom. Remember, as we heard the other day, Saint Paul tells us that Jesus is the Wisdom of God. So we are talking here about the Second Person of the Trinity, the Wisdom of God, and it says, At first, Wisdom walks with him as a stranger. In other words, initially they are not fully aware of Who the Lord is. But then it says, She puts him to the test; fear and dread she brings upon him and tries him with discipline. We have all experienced how that works if we are going to walk with the Lord, and how there are going to be various trials and problems and difficulties.
The devil in his wily ways has convinced many people who call upon the Lord that by doing so there will be no trials; there will be no problems. It is what they call The Gospel of Health and Wealth, that as long as you believe in Jesus you are going to be wealthy and everything is going to be great and you will have no problem. Well, when we hear that the Lord is going to test us and He is going to try our souls and He is going to put us into fear and dread to see if we are going to remain faithful, you start out with people who already believe that there will be no suffering if they believe in Jesus, and they are not open to the truth. They are not open to be able to be formed by the Wisdom of God.
So it is imperative for us not to begin with any kind of preconceived notion of what things ought to be. Even for people who know they are going to suffer when they take up the spiritual life, they assume they are going to suffer in the way that they ought to. That is pure foolishness. You are not going to be able to tell God how you ought to do things. God, with His infinite imagination, is certainly not going to do it your way and He has lots of interesting ways to test us. We simply have to understand, if we are going to do the work of the Lord, that we have to allow Him to be in charge, that we have to allow Him to purify us, that He is going to test us, not according to the way that we think we ought to be tested, but according to the way that He knows we truly need. As it says, She tries him with discipline, tries him by her laws to trust his soul, and then goes on to say, Then she comes back to him. The soul feels abandoned by God in the most severe trials. God is nowhere to be found, or so it seems, because He will not allow Himself to be felt. Yet if we remain faithful and we continue to grow in love, that is when all of the gifts will be given: the happiness and the secrets and the treasures of knowledge and the understanding of justice, as Sirach talks about. But that is only after things have been purified.
And so if we are going to walk with the Lord, as Sirach warned us yesterday, prepare yourself for trials. But do not try to assume what trials they are going to be because they will never be the ones that you expect. Let God lead and do not assume that because things are difficult that God hates you, that He is angry with you, that He has abandoned you, or anything else; nothing could be further from the truth. If you are going to try to do His Will, He is so grateful to you and He loves you so much and it is because He loves you and He wants you to love even more than what you already do that He tries you and He purifies you so that you can be perfect, so that you can fully do the Will of God in all things. That is why these things happen.
What we need to do simply is pray that God will take away all of our preconceived notions and ideas; that He will take away all of our fears; that He will give us the grace to do His Will and to truly desire the fullness of the Wisdom of God, which is union with Jesus Christ; and that we will accept whatever it takes to get there because that requires the trials, the discipline, and the difficulties that will come, but then it will bring about its fruit which is peace of soul and union with Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.