Tuesday July 5, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier†† Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Genesis 32:23-33)†† Gospel (St. Matthew 9:32-38)
In the Gospel today, we hear Our Lord saying, The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few. This is a problem. It is not merely a problem with regard to vocations, although that is always an issue, but it is a problem with anyone who is truly willing to labor in the Lordís vineyard because to labor in the Lordís vineyard, even though His yoke is easy and His burden is light, is sometimes a very, very difficult task.
We look, for instance, at the first reading and we see Jacob (whose name is changed to Israel) wrestling the entire night with an angel. Then when the night is over, the angel strikes him on the sciatic muscle so that he limps for the rest of his life. It is precisely this kind of thing that happens in prayer, not that we will be wrestling with an angel and get struck on a socket of our body, but rather it is in the soul that we wrestle with God and the angels. Really, it is wrestling with ourselves, and at times in prayer we wind up getting struck rather acutely. So what happens is that most people, in order to avoid the pain, just simply do not enter the vineyard. They like to look at the Lordís vineyard from the outside and note its beauty, but they do not want to walk in.
But the problem is that if we are not willing to enter into the vineyard now, if we are not willing to wrestle with the sinfulness within our own selves, then we are going to wind up doing it after this life because all of that stuff has to go. It stands in the way of our relationship with God, and we will not be able to see God face to face until everything impure or imperfect is completely removed. Consequently, the better thing to do is to take on the battle now, to take up the spiritual life and to really begin to fight against our own inclinations, our own sinful desires, our own selfishness, and so on, because even though this is not easy and it is not fun, in this life there is great merit by accepting the cross and the sufferings and struggling to grow in virtue. In Purgatory, there is no merit at all. All that the people in Purgatory are doing is being purified Ė but there is no merit, there is no higher place in heaven. In this life, if we are willing to do these things, we gain a higher place in heaven, we learn to love God more perfectly, and we are purified to love Him more perfectly even now.
So this is the call that each one of us is given. Most of us, unfortunately, are exactly like the people that Our Lord had pity on. His heart was moved for them because they were troubled and abandoned like sheep without a shepherd. Well, we have a Shepherd. The question is: Do we want Him and how much do we want to be with Him? Again, we cannot be watching from the sideline. If we are going to be part of the fold, we need to get in with the fold. If we are part of somebody elseís fold, we are going to watch the Good Shepherd lead His sheep, but we are not going to be among the sheep that He is leading.
We need to be willing to take up the cross. And the biggest cross in our life is our own self and all the sinfulness and all the bad stuff that is on the inside. That all needs to go. How many of us are really willing to do it? The harvest is great but the laborers are few. We need to pray to the Lord for the grace to be able to enter His harvest, to be willing to take on the task of laboring in the Lordís vineyard so that we will be able to love God more, that we will bring souls to Him through or prayers and our suffering and our example, and most of all, that for all eternity we will be able to love God more than what we would have been able to had we not entered into His vineyard, than if we had not taken up the labor of the spiritual life. All that really matters is that God gets the greatest glory and that He is loved the most by as many people as possible.
*† This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.