Monday August 27, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Thessalonians 1:1-5, 8b-10) Gospel (St. Matthew 23:13-22)
In the first reading, Saint Paul begins his Letter to the Thessalonians by reminding the people of how they were converted: They had been following idols and now they were converted to God. But it was not simply a mental conversion; it was not saying: "This is true, following idols is the wrong thing. We should believe in God." But rather, Saint Paul says to them that he knows the way they are proving their faith, laboring in love, and showing constancy in hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.
That is what we need to be doing, as well. The three theological virtues are what must be operative within us. Those are the gifts God has given to us, that is why they are called theological virtues. These are not things that we would ever be able to obtain on our own - they have to be infused into us by God. And the reason they are called theological virtues beyond that is because they direct us to God.
In other words, it is a reason why we do things. We can see somebody, for instance, who has hope on the natural level; but this is not that at all, this is hope of Heaven. We have faith in God; we have hope in Heaven and eternal life; we act out of love because of love for God. The love that we have for our neighbor flows from the love for God. It is not just simple charity, like a philanthropist might have, but it has an entirely different motive.
That is what we have to be about; otherwise, we are going to be exactly what the Lord condemns in the Gospel: blind guides and fools, shutting the door of Heaven so that neither we nor anyone else can enter. What happens, then, is that it just becomes an intellectual pursuit; it just becomes an external following of various precepts, but the heart is not in it.
And it is all done for the wrong reason; it is all done for show. It is done so that people will see us, rather than making sure that what we are doing is out of love for God and for neighbor. Two people can do the exact same thing, but for a totally opposite reason. We need to make sure that we are doing the right thing for the right reason; that what we are doing is done out of faith, out of hope, and out of charity. That is, supernatural faith, hope, and charity. We need to make sure that it is done because of our faith in God, because of our hope in Heaven and our desire for other people to be there, and out of true love for God and neighbor so that we will be able to obtain eternity and we will not shut the door of Heaven in other people's faces; but rather, our hope is that they, too, will be able to obtain eternity with God.
In that way, the Faith does not just stay stagnant within us; but rather, it continues to grow because it is a lively faith. It is something that is not just in the mind; but rather, it is something that enters into the heart and it begins to take over our lives. It begins to shape our lives so that we become more Christ-like. We, by these three gifts which God has given us, become more and more perfect images of God in the way that we live, in the way that we act, in the way that we speak - in everything that we are. We will not only simply acknowledge the truths of the Faith, but we will become like them, we will be conformed to them, and we will live them with our whole heart and soul and strength.
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.