Friday September 28, 2001 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Haggai 1:15b-2:9) Gospel (St. Luke 9:18-22)
This question that Our Lord poses in the Gospel reading today is one that He will ask each one of us: "And you, who do you say that I am?" That is a critically important question because we realize that our answer to that question is going to dictate the way we are going to live. Who do you really, truly say that Jesus Christ is? If we believe that He is the Messiah, that He is the Son of God, then we need to act upon it. If, instead, we think, like a Muslim, that He is a prophet, then we act in that kind of a manner. If we think, like many of the New-Agers, that He is just some sort of holy man who became an ascended master, then we can look at Him as an example, but nothing further. If we look at Him as just some guy who lived 2000 years ago, then He is no different from any of the rest of us. Who do you say that He is?
We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He is the Second Person of the Trinity who became man and took our humanity to Himself so that he could be rejected by the chief priests and elders, so that He could suffer and die and rise again on the third day. Knowing that that is who He is, now we need to mold our lives around that reality because we also believe that we are members of Jesus Christ: baptized into Him, incorporated into Him, sharing His life, sharing His divinity. That is who we are.
And if that is who we are, then we need to listen to the words of Haggai. He says, "Take courage; fear not and work!" The work, of course, was the rebuilding of the temple. When we look at the temple of God that He has given to us - our own bodies - sometimes we say, "The present glory is nothing compared to what it used to be." But the Lord will look at each one of us and say exactly what He did through Haggai: "The future glory of this temple will be far greater than the former glory." Indeed, the former glory will be as nothing at all. The holiness that God is calling each one of us to will absolutely put to shame everything of the past. No matter what our sins were, no matter what it is that we have done, nothing matters.
God is calling each one of us to holiness. He is the One who is going to rebuild the temple, but we have to cooperate; we have to do the work. He is calling us to profound holiness. Ultimately, of course, He is calling us to His own glory in Heaven. And so this body of ours is, indeed, going to be transformed, and the future glory will make the former glory seem like nothing at all.
But some of us might look at our past sins and say, "Look at what I was when I was just baptized; look at the glory of God that was within me. And then look at what I did to it." That may be true, but do not get caught looking at the past. And do not get caught looking at the present destruction; but rather, look at what God wants that temple to be - and work. Do not fear; take courage. That is what the Lord is telling us.
That even needs to be true as we look around at the present world and we see all the trouble and all the problems. Do not fear; it is not going to do you a bit of good, anyway. It might lead us backward, but it will not lead us forward. We simply need to trust in the Lord and we need to focus on growing in holiness. That is the work that He tells us to do: "Take courage and work; fear not!" He is God. He is above all else that is. As long as we are united with Him, we have nothing at all to fear. Nothing. All we need to do is trust Him and He will do everything else.
But we need to do our part. So we need to have courage. We need to put the fear aside. We need to do the work, which means, we need to pray; we need to work on getting rid of sin; we need to try to grow in holiness; we need to seek union with Him; we need to try to mold our lives to be united with His. That is the work that is ours to do. That question, then, must ring in every one of our hearts: "And you, who do you say that I am?" Your answer to that question is critically important because if you believe that He is God, that He is the Messiah, you cannot keep Him at an arm's distance because you are incorporated into Him. It is intimate, and it must change our lives.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.