Tuesday September 18, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Timothy 3:1-13) Gospel (St. Luke 7:11-17)
These words of the people of Nain when they see what Our Lord has done: "God has visited His people," is something that we also must recognize for ourselves. It may be that we have not watched as somebody who died was raised, but we have certainly seen the Lord in many ways. We have heard, as we just did in the Gospel, about the things that Our Lord has done; but in our own lives we know that the Lord has come to each one of us. He comes to us, of course, in the Eucharist. But He comes to us from the moment of our Baptism: He is there in His indwelling Presence - literally dwelling within each one of us, if we are in the state of grace. And so God has, indeed, visited His people.
But we must be very, very careful because when we look at the visitation of the Lord back 2,000 years ago to His people, those people missed it. They missed the day of their visitation and they brought upon themselves condemnation. We, too, must be very cautious; especially for those who were baptized as little babies, the Indwelling has been there from the very beginning of our lives and it is very easy to miss when it is there all the time. If it happens when we are adults and we suddenly notice the change from what was before to what was after, then it is a very clear and obvious thing to us. But for most of us, it is not going to be that way so what needs to happen for us is that we need to get inside and recognize God's presence there. We need to be very much aware that the Lord has, indeed, come to each one of His people. Not just a generic thing: God has come to His people; but He has come to each and every one of His people individually and He has visited them. If we miss the day of our visitation, we, too, are going to be held responsible for that.
Once we recognize God's visitation, we need to make some changes. We need to say, "What do I need to do if God is present within? If God is here with me, at all times, what do I need to do?" Well, we need to make sure that we are living virtuous lives. We need to make sure that we are trying to allow the Lord to live within us and through us: that when we speak, it is the words of Our Lord; that when we act, it is the Lord acting; that whatever we do, people are going to see the Lord in us and living through us.
We can even look at the first reading and hear what Saint Paul has to say about those who want to be bishops. We can offer that same thing to ourselves. The word "bishop" means "overseer"; it is somebody who wants to be a supervisor (it means the same thing), somebody who wants to do anything within their own home, within their own sphere of activity. What is it that we need to be like? Saint Paul says that he "must be irreproachable, must be married only once, must be of even temper, self-controlled, modest, hospitable, not addicted to drink, not contentious but gentle and a man of peace, someone who does not love money, someone who is a good manager of their own household. All these things we can look at and apply to ourselves.
We can go on and look at what he says about deacons. He talks about how they must not overindulge in drink, they must not be greedy, they must hold fast to the divinely revealed truths, they must be serious, they must not be slanderous gossips, they must be trustworthy. All these different points, we can just apply them to ourselves. The word "deacon" means "a servant". The one who wants to serve has to be in the same situations. We must apply these same virtues to ourselves.
And it is not just for those who are to be ordained, but it is for every person who is consecrated to the Lord. Each one of us was consecrated at the moment of Baptism, so we are called to virtuous lives. We are called to be holy and that is what the Lord wants for each one of us. If the Lord dwells within and we are to be the temple of the Lord, then we must demonstrate that in the way that we live. We must be living the way the Lord lived. That is the goal of our lives.
The Lord has, indeed, visited us. As I mentioned, if we miss the day of our visitation or even if we acknowledge the day of our visitation but refuse to do anything about it, we are going to be held responsible. If we recognize the day of our visitation and we strive for that holiness of life - for virtue in the way that we live - then we will be greatly rewarded for our fidelity. But if we miss the day of our visitation, then the people would be able to say, "God has come to His people and visited them, and they missed Him."
We need to recognize His presence, and His presence among us must elicit a change within us. That change is to grow every single day into a greater love for God, into a greater holiness, until we grow to perfection to be truly one with Him so that the One who dwells within will shine from within us and people will be able to recognize God at work. And whatever we do, they will glorify God - who has visited His people.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.