Tuesday September 11, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Colossians 2:6-15) Gospel (St. Luke 6:12-19)
This homily was given at a Poor Clare Monastery
in Central Minnesota
In the first reading today, Saint Paul tells the Colossians to continue to live in Christ Jesus the Lord, and to be rooted in Him, built up in Him, growing ever stronger in faith and overflowing with gratitude. Now, that all sounds very good to us but the question is "Why?" Saint Paul, then, makes that very clear - and this is something that we need to be able to accept.
It is a hard thing for us to accept, (The first part is easy for us, it is the second part that is difficult.) but it says, "in Him, the fullness of deity resides." That is the first part: He is God; The fullness of deity resides in Him, the fullness of the Godhead; He is God from all eternity. Remember that Jesus is not a human person. He is a human being, but He is a divine Person. From all eternity, He is God. He became man and, because divinity was not reduced at all, the fullness of God resides in Him.
But the second part is the part we have trouble with and that is when he says, "Yours is a share in that fullness." You have a share in the divinity of Jesus Christ. God has raised us up to a divine level of acting and of being and we are called to live that way, to live lives of holiness. That is why Saint Paul says to make sure that no one deceives us through any kind of empty seductive philosophy that flows from mere human traditions or a philosophy based on cosmic powers rather than on Christ.
All we need to do is look around America today to see this happening: the New Age, Buddhism, Hinduism, Neo-paganism, all of these different things that are coming back, all of these private philosophies that people are getting all caught up in, all these cosmic things. In fact, it is in the movies; it is in all kinds of things. Any young American will recognize the term "the force be with you" - that is Buddhism to the core. It is rooted in cosmic powers: God is not a person, he is a force. That is what they believe, which is a very unfortunate thing because we could say, "Electricity is not a person, it is a force."
Well, God is not a force. God is a Person, in fact, three Persons in one God. And God, if we are in the state of grace, dwells in each one of us. The Indwelling Presence of God (literally, the Holy Trinity) has come to make us His dwelling place. He has made us His holy temple.
But it is not merely a matter that He simply dwells in us, but it is, as I pointed out earlier, that we actually share in His divinity - that we have become, if you will, divinated. Or, as the Greek Fathers would say, it is a process of deification that we become God. Not that we will ever not be human and suddenly will be completely divine, but rather the Divinity is within us from the moment that we were baptized. That is what we must accept.
As human persons, we struggle with our dignity. We tend to think of ourselves as being worthless. We tend to think we have no dignity, or very little dignity. Then we look at what God has done: He has taken us and He has raised us up to a divine level. Again, that is not just a nice idea - that is reality. That is who you are. You are a person who shares in the divine nature. You have been raised up in union with Jesus Christ. You are a member of Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is God.
We cannot push that out at an arm's distance and say, "That is for somebody else." Or "That is a nice idea. I wish it meant something to me." It is who you are. It must mean something to you because it is at the core of your being. This is who you are in the fullness of your dignity. That is the point that we must struggle to accept.
The devil is very shrewd and he does not want us to believe it. So he points out all of our sins and all of our failings and all of our weaknesses and we walk away with our head hanging low and say, "What a worthless wretch I am." That is not Catholicism. Catholicism says, "Yes, we are sinners, but God has redeemed us in the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. He has made us His own children, sharing His life and sharing His nature, and we are members of His own Son. We must recognize that dignity.
Rather than allowing the devil to drag us down and telling us how rotten we are and horrible and all the other things that he will do, we need instead to look at God. Tell the devil to get lost. Look at what God has made us - who God has made us - and live according to our dignity, according to the dignity of persons who recognize that, in Christ, the fullness of deity resides, and ours is a share in that fullness.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.