Thursday September 6, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Colossians 1:9-14) Gospel (St. Luke 5:1-11)
This homily was given at a Poor Clare Monastery
in Central Minnesota
In the first reading today from Saint Paul's Letter to the Colossians, Saint Paul tells the people that he has been praying for them unceasingly that they will be able to have full knowledge of God's Will through perfect insight, through spiritual insight, which can only come, once again, through prayer. Saint Paul tells the people that this is the only way they are going to be able to lead a life which is worthy of God and which is pleasing to God.
And so, for each one of us, as we strive to live lives of holiness, as we desire more than anything to be able to do God's Will, we must understand that the only possible way to really do that is if we have a deep prayer life. One can live on a surface level and not commit mortal sin, and in that way, of course, be pleasing to God. But if we want to truly live a life of deep spiritual insight, it requires deep prayer.
Saint Gregory Nazianzen, who is known in the Church as "The Theologian," (In other words, think of all the great saints that have lived in the history of the Church. This is the one that the Church calls "The Theologian" - higher and better and deeper than any of the other theologians that have ever lived.) made very clear this point when he said, "A theologian's ability is equal to the depth of his prayer." In other words, anyone might be able to talk about certain theological things. All we need to do is read the Catechism and we can repeat it. But in order to come to a deep understanding of this spiritual insight into the things of God, we must have a deep and profound relationship with God because the mysteries of God must be revealed. They cannot just be grasped in the mind; they must be accepted in the heart. The only way that is going to happen is if we are deep in prayer and in union with Jesus Christ.
And that is not a call just for the contemplatives, that is a call for each and every single person who is baptized into Jesus Christ. Obviously, the contemplative nuns must specialize in this. They are the ones who must show the rest of us the way. They are the ones who, through their prayer and their suffering, prepare the way for everyone else to be able to do the same. But it is necessary that every single one of us have a deep prayer life.
It means spending time every day in silent prayer with Jesus. Not just simply praying your rosary, or praying the breviary - those are wonderful and good and necessary things. But it is necessary that we enter into the heart and that we converse intimately with the Lord so that He can reveal to us His own self. In that way, we will have that deep spiritual insight.
This is the secret of every saint. There is no one who is a saint that did not have a deep and profound spiritual life. So we must all follow that same example. We must learn from these beautiful women who are here how this is to be done.
When you walk in that front door, you feel the peace. You cannot miss the peace. Where does the peace come from, but from their prayer? If you want that in your own homes, that everyone would recognize the peace of Christ when they enter into the front door of your home, where will that come from, but from your prayer life? From the profound union which will be yours with Christ.
Like any other relationship, this is something that grows and develops as time goes along. In other words, it is not something that you can say today, "Alright, I will do it!" and think that tomorrow you are going to have it perfected; or that even by this time next year you will have it perfected. This is something that takes years and years to develop, like any good relationship.
For those of you who are married, all you need to do is think of your marriage. Look back to the day you got married: You were so in love with this person and you thought you knew this person so well that you could be married to this individual for the rest of your life. Now, from the perspective of today, look back to the day you got married and ask yourself how much better you know that person now, after many years of being married, than you did on the day you got married.
It is the same thing in our relationship with Christ. We enter into that relationship; we grow deeper in union with Christ; and only as the years go by do we become conformed to Christ. Finally, we become transformed into Christ so that as Saint Paul would say, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." In that way, the Lord radiates from within and the peace of Christ not only fills our hearts, but will fill our homes and will transform our lives and the lives of the people around us.
That is the invitation that the Lord makes to us today. Just as He tells Saint Peter to set out into deep waters, so He calls us not to be shallow in the spiritual life, but to enter deeply into the union with Jesus Christ; to set out into deep waters and allow Him to show us where to place our nets so that we will make the greatest catch: the catch which is the knowledge and the love and the spiritual insight of God 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.