“Gods Ways Are Not Our Ways” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, October 1, 2023

Already we are in the month of October, and the Fall is racing along. My heart was racing along for a while, out of control, hence necessitating surgery, which I had recently, as you are all aware of. I have just been wearing a heart monitor for a couple of days this week, to make sure everything is ok now. You know, it is no bad thing to check on our spiritual hearts, what we call our conscience, from time to time to check that everything is ok in our spiritual lives. If we detect some area of sinful irregularity in our lives, we need to apply the appropriate remedy- confession of our sins and asking for God’s mercy. 

When our responsorial psalm today tells us that God “instructs sinners in the way” it is clearly referring to our conscience, which can be called as the voice of God speaking into our hearts and guiding us to say and do the right things and avoid the bad things. So, the psalm today asks God: “Make me to know YOUR ways, O Lord; teach me YOUR paths. Lead me in YOUR truth and teach me”. Note the emphasis in my words: it is God’s ways, God’s paths, God’s truth that we should be following, not our own.  I would suggest that the reason why this world of ours is in such a confused mess is because most people are choosing to do the opposite- insisting that they, and their feelings, are the only guide to what is right and what is wrong. God, if he exists, should just butt out of humanity’s path, or he should come down to our level and approve our choices, not the other way round.

But, in our first reading last week, from the prophet Isaiah, we are told in no uncertain terms that: “my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55: 8-9). We keep trying to drag God down to our level, and obey our rulings, instead of allowing God to bring us up to his level and submit to his lordship over our lives. Yes, God did stoop down to our level, in the person of Jesus Christ, his Son. As our second reading today tells us: “Christ emptied himself to be born in human likeness and humbled himself even to dying on the cross for us”. But Christ lowered himself to this point, only so that, in his resurrection and ascension, he could bring us with him back to the God we had abandoned in our sin. (‘But God , who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace  you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-6)  In the words of St Augustine, “In Christ, God became man, so that man might become God”. Christ showed us the way back out of our exile from God, which is the way of humility and obedience. Hence the prophet Isaiah says , as we read in our first reading last week: “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55: 6-7).

“Make me know YOUR ways, O Lord (not mine), teach me YOUR paths (not mine), lead me in YOUR truth (not mine) and teach me (not me trying to teach you). So runs our psalm today, before going on to say “for you are the God of MY salvation”. And that is the whole point, brothers and sisters. You and I are not the authors of our own salvation- God alone is. In the words of St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “For it is by God’s grace you have been saved through your faith, and this is not YOUR own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2: 8). But it is so hard for we human beings to accept that we cannot save ourselves. All our lives, we have learned that, if you want something, you must work for it yourselves. There is no such thing as a free lunch, etc. etc. And this is true in the sphere of human activity, but not in the sphere of divine activity. Here we must accept the truth that, from Adam and Eve onwards, we human beings have been the authors of our own downfall, we cannot blame God, though so many try to, as our first reading reminds us: “You say “The word of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?”.Exactly. We try to blame God for our own misfortunes- but that is pride, and pride has been the downfall of human beings from Adam and Eve onwards. Here is a profound quote from St Vincent de Paul, whose feast day we celebrated last Wednesday: “Humility is nothing but truth, and pride is nothing but lying”. (I wonder whether the organizers of so-called Pride Week, etc., realize that the name they have chosen for their movement, has rather ironic overtones?)

Our responsorial psalm today finishes with these words: “God leads the humble in what is right and teaches the humble his way”.  Those, like the tax collectors and prostitutes in our gospel today, who are willing to say “I believe that the ways I have been following up to now are not righteous. I want to change; I need to change. Have mercy, Lord’ – these , as Jesus affirms, are making their way into the kingdom of God , whereas those who are not willing to accept that they might be wrong, and are on the wrong path, such as the chief priests and elders , are not going to achieve heaven. It is by God’s grace alone, which I have to accept in humility and faith that will save you, me and the whole world. And Jesus Christ, the supreme model of humility and faith, is the Way, the Truth and the Life of humanity. Let us bow the knee and confess him as Lord. Amen.