Thursday June 14, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Corinthians 3:15-4:1,3-6) Gospel (St. Matthew 5:20-26)
In the Gospel reading, Our Lord tells us that our holiness must surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees or we will not enter into the kingdom of God. Now, when we think about what that exactly means, Saint Paul tells us that our task is to preach Jesus Christ. More than just preaching Jesus Christ, he tells us that the task is to be able to show the glory of Christ that is shone upon us; and, in turn, to show the glory of God, which is what shines on the face of Christ. That is the task that is ours.
God has entered into us. The Spirit of the Lord dwells in us. Consequently, the glory of God is there. But it is not a glory we can take for ourselves and say, "Look how wonderful I am," but rather it is to reflect the glory of God. And so he is telling us: If the glory of God is shining on the face of the Lord, and the Lord dwells in us, people should see the glory of God shining on us. They should see that it is the reflection of the glory of God shining on the face of Christ. That is what people should see in us.
The Lord tells us that what we need to do is take all of the commandments and live them to their fullest. It is not just a matter of living the letter of the law that says, for instance, "You cannot kill." Rather He says, "Take that same commandment and extend it: You cannot get angry with your brother, you cannot use abusive language toward him, you cannot hold somebody in contempt." If we think about our driving habits, getting angry and using abusive language is probably something that pops out every once in a while; then we are violating the holiness we are called to. When we think about the people in our lives, the ones that we most easily get upset with are the people in our own families because we take them for granted. We tend to come home and take out everything on them that we think we cannot take out on the people at work, or the people we deal with in day-to-day life. So we take it out on the people we are supposed to love more than anyone else.
Again, the Lord is telling us about that. You can ask yourself, when you come home and start letting everybody in the family have it, "Can they see the glory of Christ shining in me? More than that, can they see the glory of God, with the glory shining on the face of Christ dwelling in me, shining forth because of the disposition and holiness I am demonstrating?" That is the thing we have to be looking at. The Lord wants us to be holy. Not to put up a façade and show to everybody that we are holy and say, "Look how holy I am. I am better than the rest of you." No, that is the "holier than thou" kind of nonsense that we do not need. What we need is for the glory of God to be shining forth from within. And to be living our lives in such a way that that is what people see. They do not see us, but they see the glory of God.
The only way we are going to be able to live the commandments, the way Jesus told us to, is if we are truly holy; if we are allowing that glory of God to shine from within us because we, of ourselves, cannot do this. Even if we want to put up a nice façade, it does not work. Everyone can see right through it, anyway. If we are just putting up a façade, we are not going to be able to keep the anger completely under control, to not use language that is inappropriate toward someone, to not hold people in contempt. You can take all ten of the commandments and extend them the same way and say, "Can I really live the fullness of these commandments, unless I am really holy?" The answer is "no."
So it is not just a matter of trying to make something look good on the outside, because the glory of God dwells within. The holiness must be within. It is a change of heart that the Lord is asking for and it is the whole person that must be holy. That has to start from the inside out. That is what the Lord is asking for. He does not tell us it is an option for us - he tells us it is a requirement. Because if our holiness does not surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees, if our holiness is not interior but merely exterior, then we will not enter the kingdom of God.
Note: Father Altier does not write 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.