Wednesday October 24, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Romans 6:12-18) Gospel (St. Luke 12:39-48)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord talks about the servant: the servant who is obedient to his master's wishes and whom his master will find busy upon his arrival. Of course, the Lord then goes on to talk about the one who knows the master's wishes but does not carry them out and that he will be ranked among those undeserving of trust. He is very clearly speaking to each one of us.
Saint Paul, picking up on this whole idea of slaves, reminds us that we have a choice. We are going to be obedient to one master or another. It is a question of whether we are going to be slaves to sin or whether we are going to be slaves to God. There really is not much in between. Now, as Americans, we do not like the idea of slavery; it has a very negative connotation to it and rightly so [considering] the way it was carried out in America. But there is another kind of slavery that is a freely chosen slavery. That is, a slavery that we choose to make ourselves obedient to another. All of us, every last one of us, make that choice. We would like to say, "I am not a slave to anyone." But that is not true; we are all slaves to somebody, to something, whatever it may be. Most Americans are slaves to money, but we can also go much beyond that. We can realize that there are ultimately two masters that we can serve: God or Satan. If we just want to use sin as a synonym for Satan (since he is the one who brings it forth), we can do that. And so - are we going to be obedient to God? Or - are we going to be obedient to sin?
If we are going to be seeking the self and all the pleasures of the self, Saint Paul makes very clear that we are to be like people who have come back from the dead. That is, we are not interested so much in the pleasures of the flesh; but rather, what we are interested in is seeking the Will of God. For people who have come back from the dead, that means that we have cut off sin. Saint Paul says that a man who is dead is freed from sin. So if we have come back from the dead, sin should have no more power over us; that is the point he is trying to make. We have been baptized. We are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ, therefore, sin should no longer have a hold on us; it should not have power over us.
But the sad thing is, as Saint Paul makes very clear at the end of that reading [when] he says, "Thanks be to God, though you were once a slave to sin, you sincerely obeyed that rule of teaching which was imparted to you," in other words, the teaching of sin - "You sincerely followed the rule of the teaching about sin that was imparted to you." All you have to do is think of any predominant area of sin in your life: no matter what it is, it becomes a priority for us. We will do almost anything to be able to engage in that particular sin because we are attached to it. We are obedient to the sin. Every time the flesh says, "I want this," we will do it immediately. And if we do not do it immediately we become rather frenzied and anxious for quite a while until we can finally find the means to be able to do it. All you need to do is think of a drug addict or somebody who is deep into alcoholism to be able to see how that works in an extreme case. But it works in all of us in any kind of area where we have given in to the sin. We are well schooled in its teaching and we obey it sincerely.
But then Saint Paul follows up by saying, "Freed from your sin, you became slaves of justice." Therefore, we are to reject all of that other stuff and we are to be slaves of Jesus Christ - the Just One, the One who died so we could live, the One who took on our sins so we could be freed from them.
And so, if we know the Master's Will, which is to get rid of sin in our lives and to be holy, but we refuse to carry it out, we are going to be counted among those undeserving of trust and we will be cast into the darkness where we can wail and grind our teeth for eternity. Or, if we know the Master's Will and we choose to carry it out - we sincerely desire to grow in holiness and we make earnest effort to do so, to be slaves of Christ and not slaves to sin - then we will be counted among those servants who are blessed, the ones whom the Master finds vigilant and busy upon His arrival, the ones who are trying to grow in virtue, to grow in holiness, to carry on the spiritual life. That is what the Lord is asking for each one of us: to break with sin, to break with all of the things that this world holds up as important, and to seek Jesus Christ and Him alone.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.