Tuesday October 25, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Romans 8:18-25) Gospel (St. Luke 13:18-21)
Saint Paul, in the first reading today, tells us that he considers the suffering of the present time to be nothing by comparison to the glory that is going to be revealed in us. This is a critically important point for us to understand because too many of us try way too hard to run away from every little bit of suffering that comes our way. It is kind of the American way to make sure that we do not ever have to suffer at all: “Just take a pill, that’ll take care of everything.” It is not that we should not try to get rid of our illnesses, but it is a matter of being able to accept suffering. As long as it is there, what are we going to do with it?
The fact of the matter is that in this life there is going to be suffering. No matter how hard we try, there are always new things that keep coming up. Just when doctors and scientists think they have overcome one thing, several new things pop up and there is more. What we have to be able to realize is what Saint Paul says, that creation has been made subject to futility. What we are trying to do all too often is make this world the end-all and the be-all. Thanks be to God, it’s not. If it were, we might as well be Jehovah’s Witnesses who think that we are going to stay in this world for the rest of eternity. How pathetic. God has something so much greater for us. What He has created here is beautiful, and in our humanness–even though it is far from perfect–we would like to just stay here. So He makes it futile, and therefore it gets to the point where we say, “I don’t want to be here for the rest of eternity. I want to go home; I want to go to heaven.” That is the whole point of it. If there were not some suffering, if creation was not made subject to futility, we would want to stay right where we are. It is just the human way. Even though there is something so much greater, we would be content with where we are at because we do not want to change it.
But God in His mercy has given us the means to look beyond this world, to look at the fact that everything in this world is going to pass away, that it is futile, that in this world it is a vale of tears and there is going to be much suffering in the lives of each and every one of us. It is that precisely which makes us realize there is something so much greater and there is something we can have hope for that is beyond this world, because there is not any hope in this world as it stands. There is hope for God’s grace to work in the world, but the world itself is not going to be able to do anything for us. It is passing away.
So we have that hope Saint Paul talks about, and creation itself, he tells us, awaits the revelation of the children of God. When Our Lord in the Gospel reading tells us that the kingdom of God is like the mustard seed that is planted or like the yeast that a woman put into the dough, it is something which starts out very small, it is something which is buried within, and then it grows. It is that way in our souls and it is also that way within the world. Once it is buried then we have to wait. Anyone who has ever made bread knows that you do not put the yeast in and then throw it right in the oven; you have to wait for it to rise. You do not plant a seed and then pick the fruit; you have to wait for it to grow. So too within ourselves and within the world, the kingdom of God is planted and it is growing and creation is awaiting the revelation of the children of God.
That revelation is soon to come, because as Saint Paul told us even 2,000 years ago, all creation is in travail like a woman in labor. As we have been watching, the labor pains are getting much more intense, the contractions are much closer together; the time is very soon for the revelation of the children of God. What we need to do is make sure that we are preparing a proper place. If you want the dough to rise, you have to keep it in a warm place. If you want the seed to grow, you have to water it, you have to fertilize it, and you have to take care of it. So too with the kingdom of God within. If we are not placing ourselves before the Lord in prayer then that seed cannot grow. There will be no fruit that is going to be borne because we are not watering it, we are not fertilizing it, we are not caring for it. We need to make sure that we are doing our part so that this kingdom of God is going to grow within us and the full revelation of the children of God is going to be recognized within each one of us.
That revelation is going to be found in the fidelity of those who remain united with Christ in the midst of all the futility of this world. And the futility of this world is being shown more today than ever before. That futility is going to be demonstrated even more clearly, but the glorious freedom of the children of God is going to be clearly demonstrated within each and every person who is united with Christ. Those are the only two options: either be united with Jesus or go down with the futility of the world. It is one or the other. The time of travail is upon us, the time of birth is soon to come, and we need to make sure that we are going to stay the course, that we are not going to run away from the suffering, because the suffering of the present world is as nothing compared with the glory that will be revealed in each and every one of us.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.