Showing Mercy in This Time of Trial
Monday June 27, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Genesis 18:16-33) Gospel (St. Matthew 8:18-22)
As we look around in our world today, the great question that we ask so often is: How long is God going to tolerate all the evil? How many babies have to be killed? How many things need to happen? How many marriages need to break up? How many people need to contracept? How many times do all of these evil things happen? How many priests and nuns abandon their vocation and start teaching things that are completely false and leading people astray, and on and on it goes. Look at what is happening in Spain right now – a Catholic country – where they are protesting in order to have homosexual marriages, as they call it. Of course, it is going to pass because of the government that is elected there. We have to wonder how long God is going to tolerate it.
But then we look at the first reading, and we hear Abraham asking God, “What if there are but fifty people in the city of Sodom that are innocent? How about forty-five? or forty? or thirty? or twenty? or ten? Will you spare the place for the sake of those people?” And each time the Lord says, “If I can even find but ten, I will not destroy the place.” So when we wonder how long God is going to tolerate the evil in the world, we need only to think about this particular passage. What if He can find even just a handful of innocent people, of holy people, will He forebear for the sake of that handful? He has made His answer clear.
We need to also, then, forebear. It is a test for each one of us as to whether or not we will remain faithful in the midst of all the evil that surrounds us. It is a test for each one of us to determine whether or not we are going to remain faithful to God when it seems that something different should happen. If we think that God ought to intervene and do something and He does not do it in our time, then we begin to wonder and doubt and question. So the question is not: How much evil is God going to tolerate? The real question is: Are we going to remain faithful in the midst of an evil society? That is what it really comes down to.
Part of that remaining faithful is not just holding tenaciously to the doctrines of the Faith; it has to do with the charity and the mercy that God shows toward us and that we therefore need to show toward others. Are we praying for the conversion of these people? Or are we instead praying that God will send a lightning bolt and destroy the whole mess? Abraham intervened and prayed that God would spare the place for the sake of the innocent. Are we praying for that? For many of us, we could probably look back in our lives and say, “If God would have intervened with some sort of lightning bolt at such and such a time in my life, I would have gone to hell. Am I glad that somebody was praying for my conversion? Should I not do the same for others?” Why is it that suddenly we become so self-righteous since we have had a conversion and we pray that God would destroy everyone else? That does not make sense. If mercy has been shown to us, we need to show mercy in return.
God will indeed intervene one of these days, at the appointed time that He Himself has decided. In the meantime, it is for us to pray that we will remain faithful and that others will be converted. Saint Peter tells us that God’s patience is directed toward salvation. He wants as many souls saved as He can. Therefore, He continues to wait, and He allows many, many people to fall away so that those whom He has chosen will be brought into the fold. That includes each one of us. We now need to act as children of God.
Remember that Our Lord chastised James and John when they wanted to call down lightning on the people who would not receive Jesus. Rather than calling down the lightning, Jesus chastised his disciples who wanted to see the show and wanted to see the people destroyed. The Lord simply said, “Let’s move on to another place.” So too for us, we need to pray that these people will be converted – not destroyed. What kind of charity is it for us to desire that people would go to hell? There is no charity in that. We need to pray that they will be converted so that they too will be able to go to heaven because no one should desire that anyone would go to hell. What a horrible place to be, and what a horrible thing to desire for anyone. Christian charity requires that we have to be like God, Who has shown mercy to us. In turn, we must show mercy to others so that many will be converted and many will be able to enter eternal life.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.