Trusting that Nothing is Impossible for God, 20th Tuesday (I), August 18, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Tuesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
August 18, 2015
Judges 6:11-24, Ps 85, Mt 19:23-30

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today Jesus, commenting on the departure of the Rich Young Man we pondered yesterday, said, “Amen, I say to you, … it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” That led the apostles to exclaim, “Then who can be saved?,” to which Jesus replied, ““For men this is impossible,
    but for God all things are possible.” No matter whether we’re rich or poor, salvation is always impossible for us as a result of our efforts alone. Salvation is always a grace. But God does will all to be saved and therefore makes possible by his own divine grace what would be impossible for us according to our nature and effort.
  • As a great illustration of how God can make the impossible possible, we have the great scene of Gideon in today’s first reading, which is one of the most inspirational in Sacred Scripture. Gideon, the least son in his family, which is the least family in his tribe, and his tribe is the least among all the tribes in the area, is doing the hard work beating wheat in a wine press when the angel of God comes to him and says, “The Lord is with you, O Champion!” What a greeting! The angel was greeting someone with little going for him in terms of worldly status and bearing and calls him a Champion. And God would indeed make him a champion in a way! As St. Paul would write later,”God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God” (1 Cor 1:27-29). And God’s way of leading Gideon to triumph is even more shocking that his calling. His tribe needed to go up against the fearsome Midianites and Amalekites with 135,000 fierce soldiers. There were only 32,000 that Gideon could count on. But God said that even outnumber 4 to 1, there was still the danger that when God led them to victory, they would think it was by their own prowess. So he had Gideon allow anyone who didn’t want to fight against those odds to leave. 22,000 did, so that Gideon was left with only 10,000, leaving them outnumbered 13.5 to 1. But even that was too many. God told Gideon to send his soldiers down to the water to drink and to observe how they drank. Those who bent down to cup water and drink from their hands were dismissed. Those who lapped the water like a dog were kept. There were only 300 of them, to fight against the 135,000 from Midian. They were outnumbered 450 to 1. But with God on their side, and led by a “mighty warrior,” the odds were more than in their favor. And we know what happened. Nothing is impossible for God. As Jesus would say at the end of today’s Gospel, “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.”
  • We need to keep this lesson very much in mind. Many times Christians i the United States today can get discouraged when we see the odds that are stacked against us. A government that doesn’t respect religious freedom. Many Catholics who have left the faith or no longer practice it. Many who still practice it only by halves or less. For you in the Sisters of Life, we can look at the vast conspiracy of governmental forces, Hollywood, and big dollar donors that continues to prop up Planned Parenthood even after their evil in carving up the little beings they’ve killed has been exposed for all the world to see and begin to say, “How can we compete against that?” But we remember what the Lord did with Gideon. We remember what Jesus did with twelve — make that 11 nobodies — who began the transformation the entire ancient world. Nothing is impossible with God. The devil once told St. John Vianney — if we can believe anything the devil says — that if there were three priests like him, the devil’s kingdom would be destroyed. On our own, we’re incapable of very little. But united together with God there’s nothing he can’t do. The angel Gabriel easily could have said to Mary, “The Lord is with you, O mighty warrior!” And that’s what God says to us every day, provided that we put on his armor, cinctures of truth, breastplates of righteousness, shoes of the Gospel of peace, helmets of salvation, swords of the Spirit and word of God (Eph 6:14-17).
  • And the God who makes possible the impossible will give us also a mind-blowing reward for trusting in him in this way and fighting the good fight. St. Peter asks about it at the end of today’s Gospel. “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” Jesus promised that those who have left everything to follow him — houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands — would receive 100 times more in this life and eternal life. For you, sisters, who are living by the evangelical counsels, you through your chaste celibacy will receive not just 100 times more children in this life but thousands of children whose lives you help God and their moms to save. From your obedience you will be blessed with manifold freedom. From your poverty, you will become billionaires in the only wealth that evades the 100 death tax. You will receive eternal life in embryonic form now. This is the Lord’s promise and his guarantee was sealed not just in his blood but in his own triumph over death on the third day as the greatest Warrior of them all.
  • Today we come here to Mass to receive the One for whom and in whom nothing is impossible. We receive the great treasure. He has chosen us, like Gideon, to show by faith that everything is possible in whom he strengthens us. And so, like Gideon, we make an offering to him, not of a kid and unleavened cakes, not even of merely bread and wine that he will transform into himself: we offer ourselves knowing that he wishes to consume this offering not with fire from the rock but within the fire of his love so that he may make us with all our weaknesses mighty warriors leading our families and friends and all those the Lord places in our “tribe” and neighborhood to victory in this world and forever.

 

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1 Jgs 6:11-24a

The angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth in Ophrah
that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite.
While his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press
to save it from the Midianites,
the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said,
“The LORD is with you, O champion!”
Gideon said to him, “My Lord, if the LORD is with us,
why has all this happened to us?
Where are his wondrous deeds of which our fathers
told us when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’
For now the LORD has abandoned us
and has delivered us into the power of Midian.”
The LORD turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have
and save Israel from the power of Midian.
It is I who send you.”
But Gideon answered him, “Please, my lord, how can I save Israel?
My family is the lowliest in Manasseh,
and I am the most insignificant in my father’s house.”
“I shall be with you,” the LORD said to him,
“and you will cut down Midian to the last man.”
Gideon answered him, “If I find favor with you,
give me a sign that you are speaking with me.
Do not depart from here, I pray you, until I come back to you
and bring out my offering and set it before you.”
He answered, “I will await your return.”So Gideon went off and prepared a kid and a measure of flour
in the form of unleavened cakes.
Putting the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot,
he brought them out to him under the terebinth
and presented them.
The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and unleavened cakes
and lay them on this rock; then pour out the broth.”
When he had done so,
the angel of the LORD stretched out the tip of the staff he held,
and touched the meat and unleavened cakes.
Thereupon a fire came up from the rock
that consumed the meat and unleavened cakes,
and the angel of the LORD disappeared from sight.
Gideon, now aware that it had been the angel of the LORD,
said, “Alas, Lord GOD,
that I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!”
The LORD answered him,
“Be calm, do not fear. You shall not die.”
So Gideon built there an altar to the LORD
and called it Yahweh-shalom.

Responsorial Psalm PS 85:9, 11-12, 13-14

R. (see 9b) The Lord speaks of peace to his people.
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD–for he proclaims peace
To his people, and to his faithful ones,
and to those who put in him their hope.
R. The Lord speaks of peace to his people.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. The Lord speaks of peace to his people.
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps.
R. The Lord speaks of peace to his people.

Alleluia 2 Cor 8:9

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus Christ became poor although he was rich
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 19:23-30

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich
to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Again I say to you,
it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said,
“Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men this is impossible,
but for God all things are possible.”
Then Peter said to him in reply,
“We have given up everything and followed you.
What will there be for us?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you
that you who have followed me, in the new age,
when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory,
will yourselves sit on twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters
or father or mother or children or lands
for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more,
and will inherit eternal life.
But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
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