Wednesday November 14, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Wisdom 6:1-11) Gospel (St. Luke 17:11-19)
One of the traps that a lot of people fall into is the desire for power: to try to have some kind of an exalted position, to have authority over people, whatever it may be. Yet, when we hear the words that we heard in the first reading today, it helps us to understand that it is not necessarily something that any of us really want to be thinking about. For instance, we hear that the mighty will be judged mightily and that those who have authority over others are going to be held to a far higher accountability. Now, that is in anything. Obviously, one can look at somebody in a high position in government and recognize that they are going to be held to a much higher standard of responsibility. Therefore, their judgment is going to be more harsh than someone who is lowly. But also, God has given authority to parents and He has given authority to anyone in any sort of position, whether those would be teachers or supervisors or whoever it may be. Those people all have authority over others and they are going to be held to a higher accountability based upon what they did with that authority. They have a responsibility to teach. They have a responsibility to be a good example. They have a responsibility to give counsel in accordance with the Will of God. Any parent has that responsibility. Every supervisor in any kind of position has that responsibility. We need to understand that.
When we hear about the fact that the lowly are going to be pardoned out of mercy and that they are going to be instructed in His words and that they are going to follow His way, that is what we have to be about. Even if God grants to us an exalted position of some variety, or some position of authority, we need to be humble; we need to be lowly in our own estimation. In other words, if we think that we deserve to be in a particular position we are already in trouble because that tells us that our pride is going to get in our own way. But if we recognize our dependence on God and that we need to make sure we are rooted in prayer and that we are trying our best to do what is right - to follow God's way and present that to others - then we are doing what we should. Then we are trying to be lowly; we are trying to be humble. But if we like to think of ourselves as being exalted and we like to think of ourselves as having authority or we like the fact that we do have these things, then we are in trouble because we are getting caught up in the self. We are not focusing on God; we are focusing on the self.
And so, regardless of what it is that God has asked of us, regardless of what it is that He has given us, we need to be like that leper in the Gospel reading: We need to give thanks to God. We need to recognize that it comes from God - everything does. "It is pretty obvious," one could say, "that if someone was healed of leprosy it is no wonder he came back thanking God." But so were nine others. So you can look at your own situation and you can say, "Well, the fact that I am a parent or the fact that I have this position or this job (or whatever it is), obviously, it is from God. Therefore, I need to thank Him." It should seem obvious, but all too often it is not. And we need to make sure that we not only thank Him, but that we ask Him regularly to help us to be able to do the task that He has given to us. If it is God who has given it to us, it is God, then, who has to give us the grace to be able to carry it out.
That is the thing that each and every one of us needs to consider. No matter what our position, no matter what our authority, no matter what God has asked of us, it is the Lord who has asked it and we cannot think that we should be able to do it alone. If we do, then, again, we are going to go astray because we get caught up in our own pride. But if we are lowly in whatever position it happens to be, then we will seek the Will of God; we will look to Him for the counsel and for the grace to do whatever He is asking of us. Then we will do it His way rather than our own. That is the way it needs to be. If we are doing it His way our judgment will be merciful because we are trying to be lowly and obedient. But if we are trying to exalt ourselves and we get puffed up in our own pride, then our judgment is going to be very severe. That is what the Lord makes very clear to us today. So strive to be lowly. Accept whatever God has given you; but, in the midst of that, be humble so that the Lord will be able to exalt you.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.