Thursday August 30, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Thessalonians 3:7-13) Gospel (St. Matthew 24:42-51)
Our Lord, in the Gospel reading, tells us that we must stay awake, that we must be far-sighted, and that we must remain faithful. He tells us that if we do not there is going to be wailing and grinding of teeth. If you think of that image, it is not a pleasant one to consider: being thrown into the darkness where we will wail and grind our teeth. But the Lord also tells us that if we are faithful He will put us in charge of His entire household.
That is what the Lord has for us. He has not only called us to Himself and He has not only given us His grace and His love, but He has also given us responsibility. Not only does He make us His servants, but He also, then, makes us His friends. He gives to us certain responsibilities, for our own souls certainly, but also to be able to do the work that He has asked each one of us to do. And the work is not a particularly difficult one. On one level, it is very difficult; but on another level, it is the most wonderful work that anyone could ever ask for.
Saint Paul lays it out very clearly in the first reading when he says to the Thessalonians: "May the Lord increase your love so that it will overflow for one another." That is what this is all about: It is growth in love. It is not being selfish; it is getting away from the self and learning to love God and to love neighbor. That is what the Lord is asking of us.
It is to dispense what it is that He has given to us. After all, in an example the Lord uses, He says, "Who is the faithful, far-sighted servant, who the master will put over his household to dispense the food as needed?" Well, what is the food that the Lord has given to us? It is Himself and His love. That is what we are being asked to dispense - not to keep for ourselves. Otherwise, we are going to be like the one He talks about who begins to hang around with the drunkards and so on and just simply seeks the self. He says, "My master is a long time in coming, so I am going to eat and drink. I am going to do these things for me." But if we are faithful to the Lord, we are going to dispense what it is that He has given to us. He has given us His grace; He has given us His love; He has given us Himself and He is love.
Consequently, what we have to give is Jesus Christ. There is nothing more wonderful in the entire universe to be able to bring to other people than the love of the Lord. That, too, is something we need to keep in mind: When we do try to give, are we giving of ourselves - or are we giving Christ? Many of us will try to do things on our own. We will see the need that is there and we will attempt to meet it, but we will try to do it with our own resources, with our own ability. Basically, we give of ourselves. But the Lord wants us to give Him. The goal of this is so that we become so perfectly one with Him that to give of ourselves is to give Him. It is not anything prideful or selfish; but rather, it is perfect charity.
That, again, is what we read in Saint Paul, even to the point where he says, "May the Lord strengthen your hearts, making them blameless and holy before the Lord, Our God, at His coming." That is what our lives are to be about: that our hearts will be blameless and holy at the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The only way that they will be blameless and holy is if His heart becomes ours because His alone is blameless and holy.
So, if we can become one with Christ, if we can be filled with love - completely filled with love - then our hearts are blameless and holy. The only way that it happens is if we give. And what we give is not just simply ourselves, but we give Him; we give His love; we dispense to others what He has given to us. In that way, we will not wail and grind our teeth; but rather, we will be placed in charge of the entire household. That is the gift that the Lord is giving to us. He has given us Himself, and He asks that we would joyfully give the greatest gift that has been given to us: the gift of Himself.
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.