Monday September 24, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Ezra 1:1-6) Gospel (St. Luke 8:16-18)
Our Lord, in the Gospel reading today, uses this example of the lamp that is to give light to the whole house: One does not put it underneath a bushel basket, but rather, places it upon a stand so that everyone will be able to see it. I am sure we all did a little experiment when we were kids in school where you light a candle and then you put it underneath one of those little glass containers. Within minutes, the candle would go out because of a lack of oxygen. The Lord is making very clear that the same thing is going to happen with our faith, as well as with our hope and with our charity, if we put it underneath something: Not only will it not shine, but it is going to go out. If it is not fed on a regular basis, it is not going to be able to operate the way that God is intending it to.
When we connect this, then, with the first reading, we can see the importance that it has for us. In the first reading, we hear about the exiles coming back to Jerusalem in order to rebuild the temple. Well, God is asking that each one of us would build a temple -and we are that temple. He is asking that we would make that temple glorious for the Lord, a place where the Lord is going to dwell because He is that fire who dwells within us.
So we can ask ourselves, "Are we putting the Lord under a bushel basket? Are we afraid to let people see the Lord in our lives because we might be ridiculed, because we might not be well liked, because people will think badly of us, or whatever it might be, so we hide the Lord underneath the bushel basket? But the Lord wants to shine. He wants to be seen by all. He wants this glorious temple to be built so that everybody will recognize the temple of the Lord, so that everybody will be able to rejoice in the light that comes forth from within that temple.
The Lord has given us each the call, just like He did to the exiles. Of course, we are told that not all of the exiles went back. You can imagine, if they had been exported to Babylonia and they had settled in those towns, that they had families, they had children, they had jobs. Imagine if the Lord simply said to you today, "I want you to uproot. I want you to go someplace where there is nothing. Go to the northern reaches of Canada, out in the middle of no place. I want you to build a temple for Me there." Well, that means leaving family, leaving friends, leaving your work - uprooting everything. That is what was being asked of these exiles. Many said, "No, we do not want to do that." And so, only those who had it in their heart to do it did so. Many of the exiles did not come back because life was too comfortable where they were and they did not want to take the risk of losing what they had in order to build the temple of the Lord.
What about us? What is it we have that we are afraid to risk? What attachments stand in the way? What things of the heart bind us so that we are afraid to let go of those in order to build the temple that the Lord wants us to build? He is calling us to leave our exile of worldliness in order to build Him a temple. He is asking us to leave that which is not God in order to build the temple of the living God. That means we are going to have to leave behind some comfortable things, some things we have grown accustomed to, in order to do things God's way. The question is - Are we willing to do that?
The fire shines and burns within our hearts, but are we going to extinguish the fire so we can make sure we remain comfortable? Or are we going to build up that fire? Are we going to build the temple so that it radiates and everyone can see it? That choice is ours. Just as the Lord gave to the exiles the choice: Everyone who is part of this may go back and build the temple. Only those who wanted to do so did. God will not force us to build His temple. He has given us every means to do it. He has given us His very Self to dwell within us. Now, the choice is ours. Do we want to leave the exile and go to the Lord? Or do we want to stay where we are - in our comfort zone, where everybody else is, where it is easy?
When we look at that, it is not an easy choice; it is an obvious choice, but not an easy choice. The Lord has lit a fire; He has put a lamp within our hearts - and that lamp is Himself. Now, the question is - Do we want to be part of the temple? Do we want to let the glory of the Lord radiate from within? When we look at the Book of Revelation, we hear about the New Jerusalem, of which all of us are a part; we hear that there is no need for light or the sun because the Lord God is their light, and there is no temple there because God Himself is the temple, and the Lamb is the light of the holy city - that's us. Do we want to be the holy city? Do we want to be the temple? Do we want the Lamb of God to be the light of this holy city?
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.