Thursday November 8, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Romans 14:7-12) Gospel (St. Luke 15:1-10)
Our Lord, in the Gospel reading today, points out to us the necessity of prayer for sinners, of being able to pray for the conversion of those who are away from the Lord. The people condemned the Lord because He welcomed sinners and He ate with them. Yet, it is the Lord Himself who gives us these parables about the rejoicing over one repentant sinner. If that is the case, then we recognize the necessity on our part to pray for these people who may be away from the Lord.
In our day and age, it is very easy to fall into this exact same thing. Of course, Saint Paul says, "You, who are you to judge your neighbor? Who are you to look down on your brother?" But it is very easy for us to fall into that because the distinction between those who are going to live their faith and those who are not is becoming more and more clear all the time. Yet, at the same time, it is not for us to judge. What we need to do is to pray because there are many people who simply do not even know their faith. Consequently, they cannot live it. Even those within the Church, oftentimes, have not been taught. There are many people who think that they are being good Catholics because they have no clue what the Church really teaches. They have never been taught what the Church teaches and they have been led astray by many different voices. The Lord is very interested in those individuals, willing to leave the ninety-nine, as He says in the Gospel reading, and go after the one that is lost.
You never know where the Lord will use us. It does not mean that we necessarily have to be hanging around with such people. As it is pointed out oftentimes: It is easier to pull somebody down than it is to pull somebody up. If you are trying to live a good life and you start hanging around with people who are steeped in a bad way of life, you are probably going to get dragged into it. But it may be that the Lord will put a person in your path, and you are there to be able to give that person a little direction, a little help, to point something out. Rather than turning your back or shunning the individual, you can, perhaps, say a word that is going to help the person. It does not mean you have to be hanging around with them, but it means that, in charity, you want to give them a little bit of guidance. Show them the way to the Lord; be a good example to them. Help them to be able to learn the Truth and to live it. That is the point that we have to be about.
All of us, as Saint Paul says, are going to have to stand before the judgment throne of God and give an account of ourselves. So as we sit around judging others, we realize that we are not going to have to account for them; we will have to account for ourselves. But part of what we will have to account for is our judgmentalism, so we need to be very careful. If we see people doing things that are wrong, first of all, we need to pray for them; secondly, if we are prone to judge, all we need to do is ask ourselves: "How often do I have to go to Confession? I must be a sinner too. And while that person's weaknesses are pretty evident, maybe mine are for some people as well." Regardless of whether they are or not, we do know that we are all sinners so it is just a question of what it is that we are doing: how we are sinning. Maybe our sins are different but they are sins, nonetheless.
We cannot stand in judgment upon other people. What we need to do is pray for God's mercy - for ourselves, as well as for others. If they are dead in sin, then we need to pray for them that they will come back to life, that they will get to Confession, that they will know the mercy of God, that they will repent of their sins. That is the Christian response. Rather than simply writing somebody off, we need to pray. It is a balance. It is not necessarily saying, "Well, I have to go and hang out with these people. I need to become like them to convert them." Chances are that is not going to happen. At the same time, we do not want to go to the other extreme and just ignore them and write them off and do nothing for them. The balance in the middle, for a Christian person, is the love of neighbor; it is to pray for them and to be there because if they decide that they want to repent they may need somebody to help them, somebody to help shoulder their burdens, somebody to give them the direction and guidance they need. If you shun them completely they are certainly not going to look to you for that guidance.
So treat people with charity. Do not stand in judgment, because we do not know what their situation is. We can judge their actions, but we cannot judge the person because we do not know why the person is doing what they are doing. Pray for them - that is what is most important. Then pray for yourself too because, otherwise, it is very easy to get haughty and think: "Here I am praying for all these people and I've got it made." That is where we are going to fall. We need to remember that we are sinners first and the Lord died for us and He died for others. Our task is to pray for them and to help them that they, too, will come to Jesus Christ and they will be prepared so that on the Day of Judgment they will be able to give an accounting of their life. And, on that Day of Judgment, hopefully we will have helped them so that the accounting of their life will be more positive and, thereby, will achieve mercy.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.