Monday November 26, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Daniel 1:1-6, 8-20) Gospel (St. Luke 21:1-4)
In the first reading we hear about these four young men from Israel - Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah - and how they were brought into the king’s service. God gave them extraordinary ability, in fact, even to the point where it says that the king found their answers ten times better than any of the answers that his magicians and enchanters gave. Well, first of all, that only makes sense because if they are magicians and enchanters they are looking to the wrong side for their answers, whereas these young men were looking to God - they had the Lord. And so, too, each one of us has the exact same thing. God has promised to us the Holy Spirit and He has promised that He would give us the words and the wisdom that we need.
Now we can look at ourselves on the natural level and we can listen to some of these really brilliant people and compare ourselves and say, "I don’t have that kind of ability." And yet, at the same time, we look at the Gospel reading and simply realize that this little widow who put in the two copper coins gave more than the rich. If that is the case, then we look on the natural level and see that God allows some people to be very wealthy and in that way to be able to use their wealth to help others, and other people He keeps very poor. Yet, even in that, you see the generosity of this widow: She gave more than the rich. Even though, monetarily, the rich gave much, much more than what she gave, what she was giving was from her want, from the little bit that she had. Even though she did not give as much, in the sense of quantity, it was a matter that what she was giving was really from the heart. It was truly out of the depths of charity.
And so, too, the same thing happens on the natural level of the intellect, of the mind, of the soul, of the spirit. We can look at some of these people who are very intelligent, and because they have so much intelligence, they only have to use a little bit of the ability that they have. God has given them an abundance, like He did with these four young men so that they would be able to do things for God. Now what can very easily happen is that when somebody has that much intelligence or that much ability they do not really use it all or it is very easy to use it selfishly as a power thing or whatever you want to say. But for those of us that He has given just a little bit of intelligence and a little bit of ability in the spiritual life, if we really put forth the effort then that is going to be more pleasing to God than the people with all kinds of ability who only use a little bit of it. If we try to exercise the fullness of the ability that God has given to us, if we take the ability that He has given and put it wholeheartedly into His service, it does not matter if our ability is only a fraction of what these people have, if we are using all of what God gave to us that is much more pleasing to God than somebody who may be doing ten times more than we are but only using a little bit of their ability. That is the point that God is looking at, not how much the person is actually doing quantity-wise, but how much the person is exercising the ability God gave to them.
You look at some of these people who are so incredibly intelligent and you can ask yourself: "What if they put 100% of their ability into the service of God?" Imagine the books that they would be able to write and the people that they would be able to convert and the things that they would be able to do if they used all of that ability. Then we can look at ourselves and we see that our ability is just a tiny percent of what those people have. But if we put all of that ability into God [His service] - maybe we are not out writing books and converting souls because we do not have that ability, but if we are speaking to other people with the ability that we have, if we are praying with our whole heart and soul and strength and trying to love God as much as we can - it may not be as much as somebody who is going to be recognized as a saint, nonetheless, God is going to be exceedingly pleased with the effort because what you are doing is using everything that you have, giving from your want and not from your surplus – using all that God has given to you, not just a little bit of it. That is what He is asking.
It does not matter what your ability is. If you are exceedingly intelligent and if you have great spiritual gifts, God is asking you to use all of that in His service. If He has not given you the same kind of intellect as He has given to some and if He has not given you the same spiritual ability as He has given to some, He is, nonetheless, asking you to use 100% of it for Him. That is what it all comes down to - not what we see on the surface of who seems to be giving more; but rather, looking into the depths of the being (and it is God alone who knows that) and asking: How much of that ability that He has given to you are you using in His service?
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.