Monday March 12, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week in Lent
Reading I (Daniel 9:4-10) Gospel (St. Luke 6:36-38)
The prophel Daniel, in his prayer to Our Lord that we hear in the first reading today, tells God, "We are shame-faced, we have done wicked, we have departed from Your law, we have rebelled. We are shame-faced before You because we have not obeyed the commandments that You have given us through Your servants, the prophets." This is the case for the people of the Old Testament. We see how God allowed them to go into exile because of their disobedience. He had warned them over and over again and still they wouldnít repent. So finally, it was only when they were in foreign lands, when they were exiled to Babylon and they were spread all over, that they repented. Then they turned back to the Lord, which is exactly what Moses told the people would happen. He said, "When you return to the Lord and seek Him with your whole heart, then you will find Him." First, they go into exile. Then, they recognize what it is that they have done. Then, they want their own homeland. Then, they want to do Godís will. They come back to their own homeland and they do okay for awhile. They start to sin and rebel, and God lets them go into exile again. That was because they had disobeyed the commandments of God given through the prophets.
What about us? We have Jesus Christ. Yet, we have to admit we have done wicked, we have rebelled, we have sinned, we have been selfish, we have not been obedient. We have not done what Our Lord came into this world to tell us we are to do. We can look, for instance, at the Gospel reading that the Church lines up with this. It says: "Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Pardon and you will be pardoned. Give and it will be given to you." We can ask ourselves, "How many of us can say we do not judge? How many of us donít have condemning thoughts about other people? How many of us are really compassionate when we see others in need? How many of us can say that we just give - we donít worry about it - we just give?" I suspect if we look at that and we stand before Our Lord today we would have to say we are shame-faced.
The problem is, for most Americans, we are not shame-faced because we donít even realize that we have not done what we are supposed to do. Itís like what happened to the people of Israel. Initially, they knew that what they were doing was wrong because they had been following the Law. But as time went along they just thought: This is the way life is. Then it just got worse and worse. Generations would come up that had heard the Law but never paid much attention to it because they were not taught to follow it. How about us? Is it any different? We are so far in America from what God wants us to be, and yet most Americans donít even realize it. They know that itís not what God wants. But they have never been taught what the truth is. Worse than that, they donít see an example of it. So when they hear it, they just blow it off like itís no big deal. When we hear these words of Our Lord: "Do not judge. Be compassionate. Do not condemn.", we probably would look at that and say, "Right. He really thinks Iím not going to be judgmental? He really thinks that Iím not going to be condemning in my heart? He really thinks Iím just going to give? I mean, come on, this is 21st century America already." Yes, that is exactly what He expects because this has nothing to do with time or place. This has to do with being a Christian person. This has to do with being a follower of Jesus Christ.
When we hear these words and we look at our own lives, then we have to say that we have rebelled, we have done evil, we have been wicked, we have not done the very things that the Son of God has told us to do. We need to be shame-faced in the face of our sins. Yet at the same time, we need to balance that just as Daniel said, "Yours O Lord are mercy and compassion." The Lord is merciful and He is compassionate, thanks be to Him. So we can come to Him, we can have our sins forgiven. They can all be removed. But we need to make sure that our response is correct. You can ask yourself one simple question. When you look back sometimes on some of the sins that you have committed, do you get a little smirk on your face and think that was pretty good? There is no shame-facedness there. Or do we look at our sins and recognize in the depth of our heart that we violated God? Thatís what we need to be about: Recognizing sin for what it is and repenting of that sin, trying to get rid of it. Then we need to change our lives. As the Lord said, "The measure which we measure is the one that will be measured against us." If we do not give anybody the benefit of the doubt, if we are judging and condemning, looking at things in a very narrow way, that is what God is going to do to us. Weíre going to be judged by our own standards. We need to be compassionate and look at people with an open heart, broadly. Not suggesting that evil is okay, thatís not what Iím saying. Iím just saying be compassionate, be merciful. Then we can trust that God, who has made the promise that we will be measured in that same way, will in turn be compassionate and merciful to us.
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.