Tuesday November 6, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Romans 12:5-16a) Gospel (St. Luke 14:15-24)
In the Gospel reading, Our Lord makes very clear to us by this parable that just because we have been invited into the eternal banquet it does not mean it is a guarantee, as we see that there are lots of reasons that people would give for not going to the king's banquet: "I've just bought a farm," "I've just bought some oxen," "I've just gotten married." How many other myriads of excuses one might have. These are all fairly legitimate things, but we know from our own experience that the excuses we give to commit sin are sometimes really lame and we see how easily we can get ourselves off track. We can look at God's invitation and we can say "no". So we need to make sure that we are doing everything in our power to stay on the right track.
That is precisely what Saint Paul is getting at: He says that we are to make sure we persevere in prayer, that we are looking out for what is right and good, that we anticipate one another in showing respect - all these different points. He said, "If you are going to live the Christian life, you cannot just sit back and say, 'I'm part of Jesus now.'" It is true, as he pointed out in the beginning of the reading, that we are all members of the same body, and each member is one of another. "Therefore," he says, "we each have different gifts and they need to be put at the service of the whole body." But again, you see that it is taking what God has given us and using it, exercising the gifts that the Lord has given.
They are not given for ourselves alone, they are given for the whole. But in the exercise of these gifts, what we are doing is building up others by also remaining faithful ourselves. We are not just simply putting God's gifts on the shelf. And we are not simply using things for a selfish purpose, but rather, we are taking what God has given and we are glorifying Him and we are serving those around us. That can happen in a variety of ways.
But part of what happens, in using those gifts for the right reason, is that it is a constant reminder to us of what we must be about and why we are doing these things. If we are doing them in order to try to grow closer to the Lord, in order to allow the Lord to work through us in a particular way, then it reminds us of our own humility, our own weakness, our own inability to do certain things; but also of the Lord's mercy and His power and His love. Then, that brings us right back to be able to say, "Since it is His gift, not mine, I need to pray that I will use it in the right way. I'm not going to get arrogant, thinking: 'I've got this thing all under control now. I've been using this gift long enough so I know exactly how it works.' But rather, I need to pray to make sure that I use the gift that God has given me, according to His Will, for what He wants - not for what I think ought to be." So [we see] that necessity of the prayer.
All these points, then, that Saint Paul is making - making sure that we are persevering, making sure that we are using the gifts that God has given to us, and so on - are meant to make sure that we do not reject God's gift and His invitation. The invitation is there to come to the banquet, but if we find there is something that we think is more important than God's invitation and what it is that He has given to us to use for His glory then we are rejecting His invitation. No matter how good the thing that we are doing might seem, it does not matter; if it is not God's Will, it is going to lead us the wrong direction. That is why we need to persevere in the prayer and in doing God's Will, the good works and in trying to help one another, putting our gifts at the service of one another, building up the Mystical Body: so that we stay firmly grounded in Christ and in the Will of God. In this way, we are able to grow so that we will be able to do God's Will.
Then, on the day the invitation has been written out (that is, on the day we leave this world), we will be found worthy to enter into the Master's banquet where we will be able to be with Him forever. But if we decide that we have all kinds of other things to do instead of preparing for the banquet, when the day of the banquet comes we are going to be caught up in all of the other things and we will not be prepared. Then when His servant comes to say, "The banquet is ready," we will say, "Well, I'm sorry, but I have all these other things that I busied myself with." And we are going to miss it. And so, only if we are persevering in the prayer and in the good works, using the gifts and talents God has given us, will we have our focus in the right direction - not on ourselves, not on the worldliness - but on Christ. And when He sends His servant to gather us up, we will be ready to enter His eternal banquet.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.