Monday October 31, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Romans 11:29-36) Gospel (St. Luke 14:12-14)
When we hear the line at the beginning of the first reading today, that God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable, this gives all of us great hope and can be a great consolation because we can all look back in our own lives and we can see what it is that God has called us to and, of course, our own disobedience. Sometimes we fall into the trap of saying, “Well, look at what I’ve done. God can’t be asking me to do (whatever it is) anymore.” That is completely false; even more is the idea that “Because my sins are so great, God can’t have mercy on me. I can’t be forgiven. I can’t go to heaven.” That, again, is completely false.
God has called us to Himself. He has made us His own children in Baptism. For those of you who are parents, you understand more than anybody exactly the desire of a parent. Even if your children do stupid things, even if in a point of rebellion they walk away from the family, there is nothing a parent would want more than to have that child restored and reconciled with the family. No matter what kind of foolishness the kid got himself into, the door is always open and the kid will be received back if he is willing to repent. That is the way a parent is on a natural level, how much more will our heavenly Father be like that on the supernatural level. If a parent who loves finitely is able to do something like that for their children, why do we limit God, Who loves us infinitely?
More than that, we can look at the examples, as Saint Paul points them out, looking at the disobedience of the Gentiles so that the Jews would recognize the mercy of God, and now Saint Paul is talking about the disobedience of the Jewish people so that the Gentiles could recognize God’s mercy. But we can simply look at a variety of examples. There are many of them all around us, whether we start with somebody from two thousand years ago like Saint Mary Magdalene or Saint Paul himself, or whether we look at so many examples throughout history and into our own day of people who have done things far, far worse perhaps than we have, and yet we see the mercy that God has extended to them. All that we can say is “If God can be merciful to those people, He certainly can be merciful to me because if they have done far worse than I have and they have received God’s mercy why would I limit that when it comes to myself?”
What we have to be willing to do is to open our hearts to receive the mercy of God. The problem for those of us who are trying to live the faith is that in our heads we know that God is merciful, we know that if we go to Confession our sins are forgiven, yet down in our hearts we still do not believe that He is really merciful and loving, that He has really removed our sins and restored us to full union with Himself. That is where our problem comes in. We still run around kicking ourselves and calling ourselves names and tearing ourselves down when God has forgiven us. Why? The devil doesn’t even have to try; we’re doing his work for him. We need to accept God’s mercy and His forgiveness.
Again, those of you who are married, imagine if you did something that was pretty stupid to your spouse and you reconciled with your spouse then day after day after day you came up to your spouse and talked about how stupid it was (whatever it is that you did). They would get pretty frustrated with you very quickly because you were already forgiven, because things had already been reconciled. They put it behind; they do not want to think about it and talk about it because it is over. But if we do not let go of it, then it becomes an obstacle in the relationship.
If God has forgiven us, we have to forgive ourselves. To forgive does not mean to say it was okay. To forgive means “Let’s put it behind and let’s look forward.” That is what God is looking for from us. Then consider the call that He has given to you. Look at Him–that is a much more pleasant thing than looking at ourselves anyway–and then look at the call God has given to you as His own son or daughter. Look at what He is asking of you in calling you to holiness regardless of what it is that you have done (or failed to do, as the case might be) and simply rejoice in what He has done for you and continues to do for you. That is what we have to look at. When we look at our foolishness and our sinfulness, look at it only in order to give glory to God for His mercy rather than to feel sorry for ourselves and beat ourselves up. If we see what God has forgiven, it should make us that much more grateful and that much more confident in the love that God has for us and in the call and the gifts of God which, thanks be to Him, are irrevocable.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.