Thursday March 1, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Reading (Deuteronomy 30:15-20) Gospel ( Luke 9:22-25)
In the first reading today, Moses tells the people that he has set before them life and prosperity on one hand, death and doom on the other. When we hear that most of us would say, "Well, life and prosperity means that weíre going to have a good life. We can be wealthy. We can have lots of material things. We can be focused on the self. We can have ease, comfort, pleasure, and all these things." Thatís the American version of life and prosperity. Jesus, on the other hand, tells us His version of life and prosperity: "Whoever wants to be my follower must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." In fact, he said, "Whoever will try to save his own life is going to lose it, but whoever will lose his life for My sake will save it." Thatís the Lordís version of life. Life is Jesus Christ, pure and simple. The Lord made it exceedingly clear: "I am the Way the Truth and the Life." If we want true life, it is Jesus Christ. If we choose death, however, we choose the way of the world. It is exactly the opposite of what America would suggest. We think that life and prosperity, as I mentioned, is all the stuff. Jesus says that is death. Itís death to your soul. "What profit does it gain a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul in the process?" You know that little saying, "he who dies with the most wins." I think when we stand before God, weíre going to find it exactly the opposite. He who dies with the most loses, eternally. We want to die with Jesus Christ.
When we look at the Lord, he laid down his life and then rose again. Life is not this life, but it is the resurrection. It is the spiritual life in this world. That is the fullness of life that we can look for. Each one of us is called into union with Jesus Christ. So we need to look into our hearts now as we begin Lent and ask ourselves, ĎAm I striving for union with the Lord? Am I striving to die to self in order to live in Christ? Or am I striving instead to live for myself? Am I striving for more stuff, more money, more materialism, more comfort, more ease?" If that is the case, weíre on the road of death. We are not coming closer to Jesus if that is the case. We have that dichotomy still set before us. We must be very careful how we understand the terms. The church puts these two readings together for a reason. It is to make sure that we understand what life is. What prosperity is. What the blessing is. It is Jesus Christ, it is His cross.
Then, on the other hand, we have the curse. We have death. We have doom. That is the opposite of what Jesus lived. When we look at America, most of what we are living is opposite of the way of Jesus Christ. That is the curse. That is death. That is doom. Iím not suggesting everything in America is bad, not at all. What we need to reject is the materialism. All the problems follow from it. We need to reject the selfishness. We need to reject all of these things that lead us away from the Lord because weíre not called to self. Self is going to lead us right into condemnation for eternity. We are called to love God. We are called to union with Jesus Christ. The Lord makes very clear what that union will require: we must deny ourselves daily, take up our cross, and follow Him. It is not an easy way that leads to life. It is rough and it is narrow. But that is held out before us today. We have the blessing, we have life. We have prosperity and it is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Now the question is, are we willing to accept that? That means that we are to die to self. We need to lose our life and we need to live for Him. If we are willing to lose our lives for His sake, we will gain it forever. If, instead, we choose to live for ourselves, we will lose our lives for eternity. That is the dichotomy. We can live for this world and be away from the Lord forever, or we can live for Him and we can choose life for eternity. So the blessing and the curse, the death and the doom , the life and the prosperity are laid before us again today, as they were by Moses 3500 years ago. The same exact thing that Moses called the people to, we are called to as well. Choose life, choose Jesus Christ .
Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.