Tuesday September 4, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, 9-11) Gospel (St. Luke 4:31-37)
One of the great questions that continue to intrigue people is when the world is going to end. The Jehovah's Witnesses have finally stopped trying to tell everybody when it is going to end because they have been wrong so many times, but there are always people who are trying to come up with dates and times and how it is going to happen and what is going to occur. But the Lord taught us, as Saint Paul reiterates today, that the day is going to come "like a thief in the night." One thing that I think we can be sure of (because Saint Paul reminds us) is that it is going to happen when people are saying: "Peace and security." So it is not going to happen at a time when there is going to be a lot of trouble, but rather it is going to be a time when people have wandered from the Lord and they think they are at peace.
Saint Paul then tells us that we cannot be asleep like the rest. We cannot be lulled into this false security - our only security is in Jesus Christ. If we take our eyes off him and start focusing on the worldly security that we think we have because the economy is going well, or because our jobs seem secure, or because we have more material things now than we ever had before, or whatever we want to look at, that is when we are going to be in trouble ourselves because even if the end of the world does not come, the end has come for us because we have taken our focus off Jesus and we have put it onto something else other than Him. If we were to die at that moment, we would be in serious trouble because we are not focused where we belong.
So for us, Saint Paul says, "We are not children of the night nor of the darkness, but rather we are children of the light and of the day." The light of Christ shines within our hearts. It does not matter how bright it seems outside, the world is in darkness because they have chosen another path. They have chosen false gods; they have chosen selfishness; they have chosen materialism and wealth and all the things that the world affords. Therefore, they walk in darkness - all the while, of course, telling everybody how bright things are in their lives.
It is easy to get caught into that trap, saying: "Look how easy their lives are! Mine is not that way. They must be doing something right and I must be doing something wrong." That is the devil at work because Our Lord makes it very clear that the way that leads to hell is wide and it is easy and many they are who are on it. When we look at the many and see the ease of their lives, we have to realize that they are not walking in the way of Christ; we have to understand that they are walking in the darkness, not even aware that the direction they are going will lead them completely away from eternity with God.
We, on the other hand, keep our focus on Christ, whose words in the Gospel we hear have authority. They need to have authority in our lives. We need to listen to the words of Christ and keep them before us because for us they provide the path: the Way, who is Jesus Christ; the Way that leads to life, but the Way that is rough and narrow. We need to stay on that path, and the only way we can stay on that path is if we believe in the authority of the Lord Himself. It is, again, not something that we deny; we acknowledge in our heads the authority of the Lord because He is God, but the question is what authority does He have in my own life, personally, subjectively? Do His words have authority in me? If He commands demons and they obey, what about me? When He gives a commandment, do I obey? Do I listen to the words of the Lord and put authority in those words and, therefore, listen to Him?
Those are the things that we keep before us: the words of the Lord. They are the light that brightens the path for us; they are the light in the darkness of the world. The world considers the Gospel darkness, but those who follow the Gospel recognize that the world is in darkness. The choice is ours of which we way we want to follow. We know the way that leads to life, and there is only one way: Jesus Christ.
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.