Wednesday September 12, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Reading (Colossians 3:1-11) Gospel (St. Luke 6:20-26)


This homily was given at a Poor Clare Monastery

in Central Minnesota

In the first reading today, Saint Paul tells us that since we have been raised up in company with Christ, we must set our heart on what pertains to higher realms where Christ is seated at God's right hand. He tells us to put to death, then, anything in us which is of earth. As we consider these things, I think we need to look at them in light of the events that happened just yesterday. We see the malice of some people, the callousness they have in their hearts. We see some unfortunate people rejoicing that innocent people have been killed. All of that aside, I think what we need to look at, however, is the response of Americans because that is what is going to strike us most closely at home.

I do not mean to look, necessarily, at a military response or anything else; I am talking about the spiritual response. The positive part is that there are lots of people who turn to the Lord. And so we do see that there are many people who have faith; many people who turn to Christ in the time of crisis. The hope, of course, is that it is not only in the time of crisis that they turn to the Lord. I think the fact that their first thought is that they would turn to Christ shows that they are living their faith and that it is not only in the time of crisis; but rather, when the crisis comes, their response grows out of their day-to-day living in union with Christ.

But, on the other side, we see something that I think is also a very great tragedy. That is, many Americans just simply look at this and say, "Oh well." I received a call yesterday, for instance, from a person that I direct who said that at work the people were saying, "Why are you making such a big deal out of this? It is a sad thing; but you know, life goes on. What's the problem?" Thousands of people are dead. These are parents of children, they are husbands and wives, what do you mean: What is the problem? She could not figure out why these people were so callous about it.

I think this is what we need to look at because maybe we need to reevaluate some of the things that, in America, we have gotten ourselves into. I said to her, "You have to understand, these people at work, they saw some events on television yesterday." I did not see any of it; the sisters did not see any of it; but we certainly heard. Apparently, some airplanes crashed into the buildings and went right through the buildings, even. Thousands of people are dead. And for many Americans, who saw it on TV, they would say, "What an impressive special effect. Just like the movies. Just like the video games that we play when we blow people up and we blow up buildings. We can play space invaders and we blow up airplanes and spaceships." It is just kill, kill, kill.

When we watch movies and we watch TV, it is not real. Americans are watching people be killed (actors, that is) all the time. They are watching movies and playing games where they are involved in doing the killing. Of course, they know it is not real; but the fact is that it becomes a mind-set. They listen to music, which is from Satan, and it develops, once again, the disposition that is going to make them callous and hardened. So when an event like this happens, we shrug our shoulders and say, "Why are you making such a big deal of it? Oh well, life goes on."

Granted, life goes on and we need to get up and we need to keep moving. But if we are not affected by the events that occurred, if we are not filled with a sense of compassion for the victims and their families, if we do not recognize the ultimate mastermind behind this whole thing -and that is Satan - that is a real indictment of our society. And so, as horrific as yesterday's tragedy is, I would have to say that almost as horrific is the lack of response, the lack of compassion, the lack of charity that many Americans have demonstrated. It shows just how far from God we have come.

For those with faith, I think we need to be able to look at this in juxtaposition. When we see or hear about the events which occurred, these are things that do not even dawn on a person of faith. Who would ever think of doing something so despicable as what these individuals did? Who would have a mind that is so demented that they would actually think in such a manner? And that they would rejoice that something like this would happen? That is what happens when you do not have faith. How grateful to God we must be if we are trying, indeed, to set our hearts on the higher realms where Christ is seated at God's right hand; and that God, because of His mercy toward us, has raised us so that we do not think in those kinds of ways.

But when we look, then, at this other response in America, we do need to look seriously at our own lives. We need to say, with Saint Paul: "Put to death whatever is in you of earth." We need to look at all of those things that have caused Americans not to have a compassionate response, not to care about the families and the people who have died and to just shrug their shoulders and blow it off like there is nothing to it. It is those things that we need to put to death in this society: all of those things that have undermined the faith and the charity and the reasonableness of the people of America so that we, too, have become callused. Maybe not as callused and as malicious as the people who did this, but there is a lack of response which shows the callousness of the heart that has been influenced by Satan and by all of the things that he has brought into this society that have watered down faith and have watered down the proper response of Christian people to such a horrible thing.

We need to turn to prayer. We need to turn to Christ. And we need to block out all those things that have their root in evil and have destroyed the faith and the goodwill of many, many people in America.

* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.