Monday October 5, 2001 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Baruch 1:15-22) Gospel (St. Luke 10:13-16)
In the Gospel reading, we hear that same passage that comes up several times about the cities where the Lord had performed the majority of His miracles: Bethsaida, Chorazin, and Capernaum. The Lord condemns them because they did not listen. But then He takes it from the city to the individual: He said, "Whoever hears you hears Me. Whoever rejects you rejects Me. And whoever rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me."
That is the exact same thing that we see in the first reading today as Baruch is considering what had happened to the people. Baruch, remember, was the secretary to the prophet Jeremiah and so he is working with Jeremiah at the time of the exile. They remained in the Holy Land, initially; then wound up going off, anyway. Most of the people had already gone to Babylon. When the people refused to be obedient to God, then they decided that they could find some place of safety in Egypt; but, of course, that was exactly the opposite of what God had told them. So now Baruch is looking at all the devastation that had taken place in the Holy Land.
At that point, he is saying, "We are flushed with shame, we men of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem." And so you see, it is not the city - it is the individuals. It is the whole country and it is the whole city, on one level; but it is because of individual choices. That is exactly what he says: "With our kings and rulers and priests and prophets, and with our fathers, we have sinned against the Lord and we have disobeyed Him."
When we think about ourselves, it is not just about a general populace, but it is about individuals. The Lord has worked great things within us. We have heard the voice of the Lord; we have heard His Word. How much we need to be willing to say that we, too, have been more than willing to be disobedient to the Word of the Lord, that we are shamefaced in the sight of the Lord because of our own choices, because of our disobedience. And yet, the Lord is merciful. So we need to pray and beg His mercy in the face of our sinfulness. If the most sinful of the societies of the ancient world, like Tyre and Sidon and Sodom and Gomorrah, would have converted at the Word of the Lord, what about us?
We must be very careful that we do not simply take things for granted. We know the Word of the Lord, and we hear it day after day. Consequently, we just let it go in one ear and out the other. We do not really let it take effect within our lives. We have ways of rationalizing and justifying and saying, "Well, that is nice - but he really doesn't mean that." Or "I don't really have to do that! I don't have to change to become that way." No, it is the Word of God and we do need to change. We need to hear it and we need to put it into practice. Otherwise, we are going to hear those words that Our Lord speaks to the cities, not because the city itself was so bad, but because the individuals within the city refused to change when they heard the Word of God.
So now, for us - especially us, who are baptized into Christ - we can look at what happened to the people of the Old Testament times when they were disobedient. We can look at the people of the early New Testament times who heard Jesus preach and heard the word that He spoke against them if they refused to reform their lives. And then we can look at ourselves and ask if we have reformed, if we have repented, if we have turned things around. Not just a little bit to say, "Okay, I'll believe in Jesus and I'll kind of stop sinning - at least for the most part. Once in a while, maybe …but…" No. He wants sin out; He does not want us to play around with it. He wants us to change our lives. He wants us to cut off the old way and put on the new, to live a new life in Christ. That is what He is looking for.
If we refuse to reform our lives, then He will say, "Woe to you who heard the Word of God and refused to listen to it, refused to change, refused to reform." And we will be shamefaced in the sight of the Lord. But the opposite can be true. If we, sinners that we are, hear the Word of God and reform, then the forgiveness of the Lord is ours and the salvation which is promised to those who change their lives and live according to the way of Christ is going to be ours. That is the choice we have to make.
It should be an easy choice, but it is not because we do not like the change, and we have heard it so many times and let it slip in one ear and out the other. All of a sudden, now, we have to let it sink in. We have to make some serious choices about the way that we live our lives. We must hear the Word of God and put it into practice.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.