Wednesday October 3, 2001 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Nehemiah 2:1-8) Gospel (St. Luke 9:57-62)
In the Gospel reading today, the Lord tells us that discipleship is going to come at a cost. The cost is going to be our ease, our comforts. The Lord tells us that anyone, who is going to follow Him, must understand that the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head. Our home is not here. "We are citizens of Heaven," Saint Paul tells the Philippians. In this life, we are strangers and sojourners. But we are members of the household of God and, consequently, we look forward to being able to go home to be with God. So in this life, we do not live in comfort and ease; but rather, we have to live as pilgrims who are on our way to our homeland. We are not here to stay, but we are here only as a temporary thing.
Then the Lord goes on and He tells us that if we are going to be His followers and put our hand to the plow but keep looking back, we are unfit for the kingdom of God. In other passages of the Gospel, the Lord makes exceedingly clear to us what the cost is going to be: We will have to take up our cross daily and follow Him; we are going to be hated; people are going to talk about us; all these different things that He tells us. There is a cost, and if we say "yes" that we want to follow Jesus and then we keep falling back, we keep turning the other way, we keep wanting to fit in with the world, we take our eyes off Heaven and off the Lord so we can look back at this world, the Lord says, "You are unfit for the kingdom of Heaven."
We all have made vows to God. They were not just nice ideas that we would try to live a good life - we made vows. At the day of our Baptism, we vowed that we rejected Satan and all of his works and all of his empty promises, and we professed our faith in God, in Jesus, in the Holy Spirit, and in His Church. So we have promised to God that we will look to Heaven, that we will live for Heaven, and God is going to hold us responsible for living according to our promises.
If we keep looking back and saying, "No, I want it easier in this life. I want more in this life. I want to look out for myself. I want to look for other things: for wealth, for ease, for comfort, and for more materialism," we are taking our eyes off Him. We are taking our eyes off Heaven and we are putting them on earth. We remove our eyes from Jesus Christ and we put them on ourselves. We have already told the Lord that we would take up the plow, but we keep looking back.
As Christian people, we need to look forward. We need to be like Nehemiah in the first reading. He simply said, "I have a journey. I need to go back to the land of my forefathers and I need to rebuild the city." That was the Old Jerusalem, but he was willing to do whatever it took to be able to get there and he set his focus on it. The king gave him permission, and off he went. We are moving toward the New Jerusalem and the king has authorized us to do so. Now, we have one goal and one goal only: to get to Heaven, to get to that new and eternal Jerusalem.
We need to keep our eyes and our heart fixed on that place and do whatever it is going to require to get there, not letting ourselves get sidetracked by focusing ourselves so much on this world that we take our eyes off the next. But rather, we need to be true citizens of Heaven and keep our hearts fixed on God and make that journey with confidence, with trust in God, and never take our hands from the plow and never look back - but keep them focused on Christ, and be united with Him in the journey toward eternal life.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.