Friday September 21, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Ephesians 4:1-7;11-13) Gospel (St. Matthew 9:9-13)
At the end of the Gospel reading today, Jesus tells us that He has come to call, not the self-righteous, but the sinners. It is because He has come for that reason that He has called each one of us to Himself. None of us can make any sort of claim of self-righteousness, but we can certainly make a claim of sinfulness. We know what our own lives have been, we know what our actions have been, and our thoughts. But, for us to be able to see how much God loves us, Saint Paul says that "while we were still enemies with God, the Lord died for us." But more than that, He called us. He has called each one of us to Himself to be a member of His own Self. Saint Paul says to us, in the first reading from his letter to the Ephesians, that we are to live the call we have received, to live a life worthy of that call.
How are we to live it? Well, first of all, we have to push off the sinfulness with all of its ways. He says we have to live with perfect humility, with meekness and patience, bearing with one another lovingly, making every effort to preserve the unity that has the Spirit as its origin and love as its binding force. These are not easy things for people who are sinners to be able to do because sin, by its nature, causes division. Sin, by its nature, makes us prideful. So to be humble instead of prideful, to be meek instead of angry, to be patient instead of the impatience that sinfulness tends to have is something which is very hard for us.
When we hear those words and try to put them upon our own selves, we can look at it and say, "Me? Being perfect? Meek? Humble? Patient?" That is what the Lord wants for each one of us because He has called us. He called us because we were sinners and He has given us the grace necessary to do these things. It is not self-righteousness. We cannot say, "Look at me! After all, I myself am humble and meek and patient." We know we cannot say that. But we can say, if we are growing in virtue, that it is the Lord because He has called us to Himself; He has called us to a life of holiness and He Himself has given us the grace to be able to be humble and meek and patient.
He has also given to us the Holy Spirit. And because we have the Holy Spirit, we can move toward that unity which has the Spirit as its origin. If we are going to be patient and meek and humble, then we are also going to be able to have that peace inside. It is that which is going to be necessary for the Body to be built up. That is exactly what Saint Paul tells us after reminding us that there is one Lord and one faith and one baptism. Why are we baptized into the one Lord? Why do we profess the one faith? He says it is because we are striving for that perfect knowledge: the knowledge of Christ. And it is not only the knowledge of Christ, but he talks about how we are being built up by this knowledge into the fullness of Christ; into Christ, the perfect man come to full stature, which is only going to be in Heaven - it is the Mystical Body. But it is the fullness of Christ and each one of us has a share in that fullness.
So none of these things are beyond us. By ourselves they are, because, again, we cannot claim self-righteousness and we do not want to claim self-righteousness - because, if we can, then we have no part in the Lord: He did not come to call the self-righteous. All we can claim is our sinfulness. But God came to call sinners to Himself and He called sinners to Himself to be able to live a life of virtue so we will be able to make up the fullness of Christ come to that full stature. That is the glory that God has for each one of us. Again, what it requires on our part is the effort, the prayer, and seeking union with Christ. The only way that union is going to become full and true is when we are seeking those virtues that are going to provide the means for building it up.
When we look to Heaven, when we look to that fullness of Christ, then we need to look back at ourselves and say, "What is necessary for me to be truly and fully a part of this? It is necessary for me to live the call, to live my baptism, to live the faith I profess, to live as a member of Jesus Christ, and to pray for and live the virtues that He has called us to live as members of His Mystical Body."
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.