Thursday September 13, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Colossians 3:12-17) Gospel (St. Luke 6:27-38)
This homily was given at a Poor Clare Monastery
In Central Minnesota
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord gives to each one of us a pretty stern challenge: He tells us that we have to rise above the way that everybody else lives. Now, that does not simply mean not to sin anymore. In other words, He tells us that we have to go beyond acting just the way any ordinary sinner is going to act; we are ordinary sinners - but we are in the state of grace.
As we heard in the first reading, Saint Paul says, "Because you are God's chosen ones, holy and beloved." You are holy and you are beloved of God. And because God loves you, there is much that is required. And because you love God, there is much that is required. It is not merely a matter of saying, "I need to stop committing mortal sins and keep myself in the state of grace." Or "I need to go to Confession regularly and get to Mass regularly, participate in the Sacraments and try to pray on a regular basis." That is all required; it is not an option.
It means that we have to change ourselves at the very depths of our being. We need to become like God in all things. And so the Lord says that we need to love our enemies, we need to pray for those who persecute us, we need to lend to those from whom we do not expect repayment. We need to go beyond what is just ordinary "good" human living. God expects that we are going to be perfect, that we are going to strive for true holiness, that we will become like Him in all things. That is quite a challenge.
Most of us, sadly, when we hear that, we just let it go in one ear and out the other. We do not pay a whole lot of attention to it. We think: "That sounds kind of ridiculous and crazy. That really does not affect me." But the Lord says, "For you who hear Me, I say to you -" It is directed right at us. It is not for everyone else; it is for us.
God loves us. We are chosen by God. Think about that. What a privilege we have that God has chosen us for Himself! He is the One who has made us holy and we are the beloved of God. He loves us so much that He has removed our sins and He has made us members of His own Son.
We recall the words of His Son: "From those, to whom much has been given, much is going to be required." It is not just a matter of standing before God on Judgment Day and saying, "Well, didn't I try to keep myself in the state of grace? Didn't I just draw the line where mortal sin is and made sure that I stayed on the right side of it?" But God is going to say, "Look at all the grace that I gave to you. Look at the holiness that I expected of you. Look at all the opportunity that I gave to you to become a great saint. What did you do with it?" It will be a sad day if we have to look at the Lord and say, "You gave me this thousand talents and I buried it in the ground and here it is back. I gave to you what you gave to me." He is going to say, "But I expected it back with interest and, in fact, doubled or tripled or more."
He has given to us the grace. What is our response? Not merely just to hoard the grace and keep it and bury it so we can make sure that we slide into Heaven with at least the minimum of grace so we can get there. God wants us to be His beloved: to love Him the way that He loves us and to love our neighbor the way that He loves them.
That requires us to go beyond what is even normal for good people in the world. It means to be heroic in the way that we live our faith. Heroic faith, heroic hope, heroic charity: to love those who hate us, to do good to those who do not do good to us, to give where we do not expect any gratitude or any repayment, to be like God in all things, to be truly holy and beloved of God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.