Tuesday August 16, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Judges 6:11-24a) Gospel (St. Matthew 19:23-30)
Our Lord, in the Gospel reading today, tells us that many who are first will be last and those who are last will be first. It is exactly what we see in the first reading as God sends His angel to speak to Gideon. He tells Gideon that he is going to lead the Israelites in overcoming the Midianites, and Gideon replies, “How is this possible? My family is the lowest in the tribe of Manasseh and I am the least among my family.” Once again, we see how God works. Very often He chooses those who are the lowest, the ones who would be the most unexpected. The reality is, if we look at our own selves, that we would have to say most of us are probably in that boat, that we are not chosen because of anything great we are or have done, but we are chosen because we cannot do it by ourselves. We should know that.
The other line that Our Lord uses in the Gospel when He is asked who will be saved is: For man it is impossible, but for God all things are possible. Now there are two things we have to understand in that. First of all, there is no one – including Our Lady – who can save himself, no one. Every last one of us needs a redeemer. It does not matter who a person is or what rank they are, we all need a redeemer. So for man it is truly impossible in an absolute sense. But the other part of this is coupling it with what we were looking at before. We have to just simply look at our own selves and most of us can look back in our lives at some point and ask, “How is it possible that I could be going to daily Mass? How is it possible that I can be trying to live the Faith? How is it possible that I can be trying to develop a prayer life?” On and on we could go. Once again, that is where we realize it is possible only by God’s grace because I know fully well that if it were up to me I would be on the fast track to hell. But by God’s grace, as Saint Paul said, I am what I am. That is the only thing we can look at. It is purely a gift. By ourselves it is not possible.
It is not possible even if we were going to choose to be Catholic, let alone live it out; that is purely God’s grace and that is the point we have to understand. Since God has chosen us, we have to respond. That is the only thing we can do and even for that we need God’s grace. So He gives us the grace to set us up, then He gives us the grace to make the choice, and then He gives us the grace to be able to act upon the choice. But we still have free will to be able to do it, to reject it or to be able to accept it. And that we have to cooperate with. Since He will not force us, we have to choose it. The offer is there just like it was with Gideon. God has made the choice, and now we have to choose along with His grace to do His Will and to quit fighting against Him because that is what most of us, quite frankly, like to do. We fight against God. And we all know exactly where it gets us to fight against God.
If we would choose to do His Will then we would be able to recognize that we who should be last are going to be among the first. If we like to rank ourselves among the first, we are going to be in some serious trouble. But if we recognize that we are the smallest, the lowest, and the least, then we will understand why God picked us – not because of any greatness in ourselves – but in order to demonstrate to the whole world that this was God and not us, to be able to demonstrate to us personally, as well as to anybody who knows us, that for us what is impossible is completely possible for God. It is possible even for us to become saints, not on our own by any stretch of the imagination, but only for God. That is exactly what He wants to do with each and every one of us: make us saints. The grace is there. Now we have to choose it and cooperate.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.