Thursday October 4, 2001 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Nehemiah 8:1-4a,5-6,7b-12) Gospel (St. Luke 10:1-12)
In the first reading today, we hear about the people weeping as they hear the words of God being read by Ezra the priest. The words that he was reading were the words of the Book of Deuteronomy, a book that the people had never heard because they had been in exile for many years and that book had been buried in the temple. As they began rebuilding the temple, they came upon the scroll that one of the priests of the older times had buried before they went into exile. So now, as they brought the scroll out before the people, who heard it for the first time, they heard the words of God and they wept. Then, when Ezra blessed God, all the people bowed down with their faces to the ground.
Think about the reverence these people had in the presence of God - just in the presence of the Word of God, which is the inspired Word of God: They bowed down with their faces to the ground. Now we need to think about ourselves because we have the true, complete Word of God right in our midst: Jesus Christ, present in the Eucharist. He is the Word made flesh. So we need to ask ourselves: "How do we reverence the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament? Are we making sure, always, that our heart is fixed on Him? When we are in His presence, is it one of prayer, is it one of true adoration?" That is what the Lord deserves.
If the people of old bowed with their faces to the ground and wept because they heard the words, how about us when we receive the Word of God into our hearts when we receive Holy Communion? We need to make sure, then, that when we go back to our pews we are deep in prayer, in union with the Lord, seeking to hear Him speaking in the depths of our hearts. That is where He is going to speak; that is where the Word is going to be heard.
Then we need to ask ourselves how we have responded. Having heard the Word - and, indeed, having received the Word - are we like the towns Jesus spoke of that received the apostles who preached the Word of God? Or are we like the towns that did not receive them, the ones that the Lord referred to when He said, "Go outside and shake the dust from your feet." It would be a tragedy if, on the day we die, we stand before the Lord and He tells us that He shook the dust from His feet because we did not want to hear His Word. We really did not want Him; we gave Him lip service, but our hearts were far from Him.
What we want is to have the same attitude as those people of old. When we recognize the presence of the Word of God among us, then we need to rejoice, we need to be filled with joy - but also filled with awe and with reverence. As the priests and the scribes and the Pharisees were telling the people: "Today is holy to the Lord your God."
If we see that we have strayed, then today we need to make the choice to come back. Rather than weeping and lamenting, we need to rejoice in the mercy of God; we need to rejoice that our sins are forgiven and that we are reconciled with the Lord because "today is holy to the Lord our God."
Every day is holy to the Lord our God. He does not want us only to rejoice because there is a specific feast, He wants us to rejoice in Him. And He is with us every single day. That is the way a Christian person must be: someone who is filled with joy in the presence of the Lord. Having received the Word of God into our hearts, then He radiates in our lives, and we bring Jesus Christ into the world. That is what the Lord is asking. And that is going to be found in people who are in love with the Lord, who are filled with joy in the presence of the Lord, and who bring Him into the world.
So we need to look at ourselves very seriously and ask ourselves: "Am I living the faith that I profess? Am I being true to the Lord? Have I heard the Word of God and lived it out in my life? Am I seeking perfect union with Jesus Christ? Am I allowing Him to shine and radiate through me so that He can touch the lives of other people?" That is the true Catholic life. That is what the Lord is calling us to. And regardless of whether we can say "yes" to that or whether we say "no", if we can walk away today saying, "That is what I want," then rejoice because today the Lord has come to your house - and today is holy to the Lord, your God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.