Tuesday June 19, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Corinthians 8:1-9) Gospel (St. Matthew 5:43-48)
In telling us that we must be perfected as our heavenly Father is perfect, Jesus is laying out for us quite a task to be perfect. He tells us that we must be perfect. He does not say, "Would it not be nice to be perfect?" He does not say, "It would be a great thing if a few saints became perfect." He said, "You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." That is the task He lays out for each and every member of His mystical body. Because we are in Jesus Christ, because we have the grace of God, we have all the means of becoming perfect; it is just a matter of the will.
Saint Paul talks about the people of Macedonia and he says, "It was beyond our wildest hopes that they gave themselves entirely to God from the beginning. Then they continued to give themselves, even beyond their means." He tells the people in Corinth that they have to become like Jesus in everything. He says, "Jesus, even though He was rich, made Himself poor for our sake so that we can become rich by His poverty." So, we see what Jesus is telling us about Our Heavenly Father when He tells us that He lets His sun shine on the good and the bad, and it rains on the just and the unjust. He then tells us that we have to love, not only the people who are good to us, but we have to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. We see, as we line all these things up, that it all comes down to the same point: It is a matter of giving.
It is a matter of giving of ourselves. As I have said many times, "God does not care about our money. He's given us the financial means to be able to raise our families and deal with the things we have to do, as well as to help other people. But God wants us, not our money. It is a question of giving. It is not a question of looking at how much money you gave in the past year and saying, "Well, I'm doing real well." But it is a question of asking, "How much have I given myself? How much of me have I given away?" For those who are married, of course, that is first and foremost your spouse and your children. Have you given yourself entirely as you vowed to do? Remember, on the day you got married that is the vow you made. You would love this one person every day for the rest of your life. And to love is to give.
Since God loves perfectly, He gives perfectly; even to the point of giving Himself completely, totally, "taking on the form of a slave" as Saint Paul says to the Philippians, and dying for us. He gave everything for us. What He is asking is that we would do the same, that we would give it all, that we would give ourselves in love to others. That is what we were created for. We are made in the image and likeness of God, Who is love. So it is a call to give, to pour ourselves out.
That is not something that comes easily to anybody. It is a very difficult thing. We try to preserve ourselves. In our country, we have this lovely saying: Looking out for number one - we have to take care of ourselves. Then, we look at the saints. They said, "If I look out for Number One, who is God, then He will take care of everything else. I do not have to worry so much about me. God will take care of me as long as I am looking out for Him." That is what we have to be about: being like God in all things and becoming united with God in all things so that we can be perfected in God in all things. That is not an easy thing. It takes years and years to do. We cannot think, "Well, I must really be messing up because I am not there yet." Nor can we say, "Oh, that is so ridiculous. I will never be able to get there." Neither of those is true. As long as we are moving in that direction, as long as we are praying and trying to live the commandments, and as long as we are trying to love the people around us and giving ourselves as we are able, God will make up for the rest. He will continue to provide and He will continue to call us forward, asking everyday for us to give ourselves even more perfectly, more completely than we did yesterday. Each day it gets better and better. Finally, as the years go along, the grace of God will be there in abundance so that we can give ourselves perfectly, as He has. That is what He is asking, indeed, requiring. You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.
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.