Tuesday December 13, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week of Advent
Reading (Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13) Gospel (St. Matthew 21:28-32)
In the first reading today, the prophet Zephaniah talks about the rebellious, polluted, and tyrannical city, the city that hears no voice and accepts no correction, and has not trusted in the Lord or drawn near to her God. Well, this does not need to be only a city; this can be a country and it can be individuals. If we look throughout the world, we would have to say that this would be the vast majority of cities, states, countries, as well as people. Most do not want to draw near to God. Most do not want to do what is right. They are rebellious and tyrannical.
Yet the Lord talks about what is going to happen when He purifies things. He talks about how He is going to remove all of those who are braggarts, and He is going to leave a people who are humble and lowly. He says, There will not be found in their mouths a deceitful tongue. There will not be anyone there who lies. There is not going to be anyone who does what is wrong. And so if we want to be part of Our Lord’s flock, we see what we have to be about: humble, lowly, honest, not being deceitful, but being upright in the way that we live, striving to be like Jesus.
Now if we couple that with the Gospel reading, then, the Lord asked the question about who was the one who did the will of the father. We can ask ourselves that question. He tells us what He expects of us, and we say, “Oh, indeed, I’ll do it!” And then what do we do? We never go out in the field. We do not do the Will of our heavenly Father. Yet Jesus tells us that the tax collectors and prostitutes (and you can substitute anyone that you want into that), when they have a conversion–they have a conversion. They change their lives. They stop doing the things they were doing, not only just the horrendous kinds of actions, but even the way they speak and the way they act suddenly changes. If we look at ourselves in comparison, we say, “Well, why haven’t I done that? Why do I accept that it is okay for me to do these things that I know are wrong?” So we are the ones that are giving lip service to God, telling Him that, yes, we will go out in the field, we will go out and do the work, but then we refuse to do so because we want to do it our way. We think maybe God’s way is a little too restrictive, that maybe doing it God’s way just is not going to be very fun, or we are going to be rejected, or who knows what reason we might have to try to rationalize our way around doing God’s Will. We become just like the son who said, “Yes, I’ll go and do what you want me to do,” and never go and do it because we do not want to do it His way.
Are we not, then, the rebellious and tyrannical city, the ones who are supposed to be dedicated to the Lord in doing His Will and yet we do not? We do not draw near to the Lord. We do not want to do His Will. We give Him lots of lip service, but where are the hearts? That is what He is looking for. He is not just looking for the words; He is looking for the actions. We are to live what we profess, and that is what Jesus is wanting. When we see the way that He will work in the lives of a number of people who have extraordinary conversions, then we have to look at our own selves because this is why He condemned the Pharisees in the Gospel reading. They saw the conversions of the tax collectors and the prostitutes, and even when they saw that, they still did not convert. Consequently, we can only look at our own selves and say, “What about me?”
We have to stop trying to justify and rationalize and have all kinds of cheap excuses as to why it is okay for us not to do what we are supposed to do. We have to look and ask the question: “What does God want me to do? I am to be humble. I am to be honest. I am to be upright. I am to do no wrong.” These are the things that characterize the members of the flock of God. These are the things that He tells us that He Himself is going to do with the people who choose Him. If we want to be part of that flock, that is the way we have to live, to walk humbly with our God and to do always what is right in His sight.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.