Friday November 16, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Wisdom 13:1-9) Gospel (St. Luke 17:26-37)
In the first reading from the Book of Wisdom, we hear about how people in their foolishness did not come to know God. They were able to see the beautiful things that God had created and, because they saw the beauty and they saw the power of these created things, they held them up as gods. We are reminded, of course, of the great Saint Augustine who talked about these exact same things: "O Beauty ever ancient, ever new! You were within, but I looked for You outside." Then he talks about how in his unloveliness he plunged himself into the lovely things of the world looking for God, but he was not able to find the Lord in any of those things. That is precisely what the author of the Book of Wisdom is getting at, as well. If we could see the beautiful things that God made, how is it possible that we could not come to the understanding of the One who made it? If we can see the power of the things that God has made, how is it that we do not more clearly understand the power of the Creator of all these things? When we see the created things, we have to be able to recognize the Creator of these things.
What we have happening today, even in our own society, is that people are once again turning to the created things and worshiping the created things. We live in what would now be called a neopagan society. We have an upsurge of all kinds of pagan beliefs, pagan worship, pagan gods and goddesses, and the worship of things that are not God because people are seeking something beyond themselves - but they do not really want God. That is what it says here again: "…even these are not pardonable." They are seeking, but the question is do they really want to find?
We need to look at the exact same thing. Do we really want the Lord? On one level, of course, we say "yes." We want to know who the One True God is and we want to worship Him, and yet when it comes down to God laying out for us what He expects - well, then we are not so sure that we want that. It is a lot more fun to do it the New Age way. The New Age way says that you can have something of a mystical life and you can continue to sin and you can continue to fill yourself up with whatever you want and you can continue the pleasure-seeking and you can continue in the materialism and … on and on they go. You can do whatever you want and you can have these spiritual experiences. Well, the Christian way says that you do not look for spiritual experiences; you are seeking a relationship with the Lord. And in order to obtain that relationship with the Lord we need to get rid of whatever does not lead us to the Lord. Then most people back away.
So we can understand on the natural human level how even people who are seeking something beyond themselves really do not necessarily want to find God. That is why they are not pardonable because even by their own reason they could come to the realization that God exists and that these created things are not God and that these false and imperfect things are not God. But it is easier to fall into those things than it is to really seek God with our whole heart and soul and strength. So we need to make a decision to seek Him entirely.
When we hear the Gospel reading today about what is going to happen on the day of the Lord: "one will be taken and one will be left" and so on, we being to understand the importance of seeking God with our whole heart and soul and strength. We need to be earnest. We need to be serious about this. Do not just give God lip service - but keep plunging ourselves into the lovely things of the world, while the truly lovely One we ignore. Do not say that we want to find God who dwells inside and keep looking for Him on the outside; it is not going to happen. We need to seek Him where we know we are going to find Him. "Where the carcass lies, there are the vultures gathered," the Lord said. If the Lord is right within, that is where we need to gather. Why do we look for Him where He is not? Even though He keeps all those created things in being, we are not going to find Him there as perfectly as we are going to find Him right within and [also] in the Blessed Sacrament. Why do we seek Him elsewhere? That is what we need to understand.
We need to make a decision that we are really going to seek the Lord and that we are not going to seek Him in things that are not the Lord; but rather that we will understand all the created things within their Creator - not the other way around. And that includes ourselves: We can only understand who we are in light of who He is, so we need to put Him as the priority. We need to seek Him with all our strength and love Him as He has asked us to do.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.