Reading (James 1:1-11) Gospel (St. Mark 8:11-13)
Well, we are no different, because people do not want to see. There are signs all around us of what is going on, yet we do not want to see and we keep saying to God, “Give me a sign.” What do we need? How big of a sign do we need? Do we need to get hit by a semi [truck] before we realize what is going on? The time is at hand, and people do not want to believe it. We do not know the exact timing, but I submit to you that Lent this year may be quite different from any that we have ever known.
So we had better listen very carefully to what Saint James has to say: Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials. If we have not been praying, this is not possible. Instead, what we are going to wind up doing is being angry and cursing God and probably falling away from our faith. The warnings have been there over and over again that we need to pray and that we will not survive if we do not pray. Now the time is upon us, and we run around saying, “Oh, Lord, show me a sign.” There is not going to be another sign. There is going to be a pretty stiff warning, but there is not going to be another sign. We need to be able to recognize that this is part of God’s mercy. This is His love for us. Just as we heard in the psalm, It is good for me that I have been afflicted, he said, and then goes on to say, O, Lord in Your faithfulness You have afflicted me.
God is going to give us all an opportunity to make a radical decision of whether we are going to stick with Him or not. It is not going to be an easy decision. Right now it is easy. We can all sit back and say, “Of course I’m going to be faithful to the Lord!” But in the midst of trial, it might not be so easy. We will all have to make that decision; otherwise we are going to be exactly like what Saint James is talking about. He said, Ask in faith, not doubting, because the one who doubts is like the wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind. That person will not receive anything from the Lord. Why? Because he is of two minds and unstable in his ways. All we are doing is hedging our bets: “If the Lord is God… If He does this, well, then maybe…” And so we go to prayer with these kinds of attitudes.
We need to trust God. And how is that going to happen? Only if we pray. So we need to make some serious changes, and we better make them very quickly because the time is upon us. We are not going to get any kind of extraordinary signs. We are going to get immense suffering. This is a great gift, but when it is over the Church is going to be a whole lot smaller and our faith is going to be purified if we persevere. It will be a great, great gift, but it is not going to be an easy one and it is not going to be a fun one. But we need to rejoice in the trials because then our faith is being purified, as Saint James tells us, and when our faith is tested that makes for perseverance. So that is what we need. And when that perseverance is there, he tells us, we will be perfect and complete and lacking in nothing. That, again, is what God wants for us. When that is in place, we will be unshakeable; we will have that absolute faith. We are not going to be like the wave tossed about by the wind, we are not going to be of two minds anymore because it will be very clear and our faith will have been purified so that we will remain faithful to the Lord.
We need to be able to see what God is doing and why, and we need to rejoice in it because it is a great gift, a profound gift. But it is not going to be any kind of sign. It is going to overtake us like a thief in the night. When it happens, we need to be able to rejoice. And how are we going to be able to do it? There is only one way. The only ones who will be able to rejoice and the only ones who will be able to persevere are those who pray.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.