Friday August 31, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8) Gospel (St. Matthew 25:1-13)
In the first reading today, Saint Paul tells the Thessalonians that it is God's Will for them to grow in holiness. He tells them, "You have already learned from us how to live your lives in a way pleasing to God." And then he tells them that this is what they are already doing. I suspect, if he was here today, he would say the exact same thing to us: "You are already doing that." But he does not say, "Good enough," he says, "You must make still further progress," because we cannot simply stop. If we do that, we are going to start spending what it is that we have until we have nothing. Then we will be like those foolish virgins of the Gospel, who had enough oil for awhile but not quite enough to be able to make it all the way.
We need to make sure that we continue to grow, that we continue to advance in holiness; otherwise, we are going to slide backwards. Remember the principle: In the spiritual life nobody stays in the same place. You either move forward or you move backward; nobody can stay in the same spot. You cannot say, "I have done enough. I have moved far enough in the spiritual life, I do not need to go any further." If you have that attitude, it means you are starting to slide backwards.
And if we continue the backward slide, the Bridegroom is going to come when we do not expect it or He is going to call us to Himself when we do not expect it and we are not going to be ready. We are going to look at ourselves at that point and think: "But I am not ready yet! I need to get more oil in the torch. I need to pour more grace into my soul." But we are not going to have the opportunity.
That is the point we need to be working at now: to be growing constantly in holiness, to be seeking to rid ourselves of any vestige of immorality. It may not be that we are out committing grave sins, but it may be that there are still some elements of those sins we may have committed in our past that are still holding on. Maybe, when we think back to those sins or when a temptation is placed before us, we still feel the tug. Or maybe we even feel some pleasure as we think back to the sins we have committed. That needs to go. It is still an attachment to an element of the sin and God wants it entirely broken. He wants our souls to be completely for Himself.
That is why Saint Paul tells the people of Thessalonica: "While you are already living according to God's Will, you must make still greater progress." Never, ever be satisfied with where you are at. The beautiful thing is, when we look at Our Lady or when we look at any of the saints, even when they reach the highest levels of the spiritual life they do not stop; even when they hit perfection, they continue to grow. Now we can ask ourselves, "How can you grow after perfection? You are already perfect." But love never stops growing. So, even though there is no more sin and there is no more imperfection in their lives, their love can continue to grow.
That is what God wants from each one of us. The holiness, the love for God and for neighbor must continue to grow within each one of us. No matter what level we are at in the spiritual life, there is always more room to grow because the soul can continue to expand, can continue to absorb more and more of the love of God. The Lord wants to pour that love into our souls, but we have to be willing to open our hearts to Him. We can only look at that reading and keep repeating to ourselves, recognizing that, yes, the effort we are making is very pleasing to God, but: "We must make still greater progress and continue to grow in holiness."
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.