Thursday December 6, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week in Advent
Reading (Isaiah 26:1-6) Gospel (St. Matthew 7:21, 24-27)
In the reading from Isaiah this morning we hear that the day is going to come when the people will say: "A strong city have we; He sets up walls and ramparts to protect us. Open up the gates to let in a nation that is just, one that keeps faith." And so what we look at, then, is this point that somewhere in the future there is going to be a holy city that is going to be protected by God Himself. The only ones who are going to enter into it are the ones who are just, those who are faithful to the Lord, and one who has a firm purpose. That purpose, of course, is to do the Will of God.
That is exactly what we hear in the Gospel reading. Our Lord tells us about this city; ultimately, it is Heaven. He tells us that in this city the only ones who will be able to enter it are the ones who do the Will of His Father in Heaven - not the ones who cry out "Lord, Lord," not the ones who will claim to have faith, but the ones who indeed are faithful. And the fidelity is going to be found in action, not merely in word. If we say that we believe in the Lord, then we need to act upon it. It is not enough just to sit back and claim that we believe. But it is to say that if we believe in Him, then we need to act upon that belief; we need to put it into practice.
Our Lord, then, goes on to talk about how the one who hears His word and puts it into practice is like the person who builds his house on a rock. Now if we stop to ask ourselves, on the natural level: "What did Jesus build the house that He was putting up on?" He said to Peter: "You are rock, and on this rock I will build My Church and the jaws of hell will not prevail against it." And so in this life we see that the Church is that city of God. But the Church is the Bride. The Church is the New Jerusalem. We look forward to a heavenly city. This is a prefiguration of what will be. The perfection of the Church is going to be in Heaven. It is there that we will find the place that God has established, ultimately.
But even here we have a place that God has set up, a city that He has established. He has put up the walls and ramparts to protect us: He has given to us the teachings; He has given to us the doctrines and the dogmas that we know we are to believe; He has given to us the moral teachings as the boundaries to be able to protect us so that we do not transgress the law, so that we do not hurt ourselves, so that we do not give ourselves over to Satan. He has set these things up not to hem us in, but to protect us. If you go to Jerusalem as it is today, it has the city walls around it; one could look at the city walls and say, "How sad that they have locked all of these people in." But that was not the intent at all. It is to lock out the people who were going to try to destroy the city. But at the same time, what that meant for the people inside the walls was that there was protection. They had set up the walls and the ramparts to protect the people. And so it is in the Church: Those walls and ramparts are the moral and doctrinal teaching to make sure that we are safe, to make sure that we do not transgress the Will of God, but that we know what the truth is and that we are set up to be able to live that truth; not merely to be able to look at the city and say, "That is really beautiful. Look at what the Lord established." That is not going to get us anywhere. It is set up to know the Will of God and to do it, to make sure that we stay within the proper boundaries, and to make sure that we have everything set up for our success.
And that success is to be able to get to Heaven. That is the only success that matters. It matters not in the least how much money a person has or how much stuff they have accumulated; if they wind up in hell for eternity, what difference does all the fame and glory mean? All that matters is getting to Heaven. And the only one who is truly successful is the one who becomes a saint. Anyone else is a failure – a total failure. Even if they were a billionaire in this world, even if they were the king or the queen of the entire world, if they wind up in hell they are a failure. If, on the other hand, you look at somebody who walks the streets and has absolutely nothing and goes to Heaven, that person is a success. That is a person who not only cried out "Lord, Lord," but did the Will of our Father in Heaven. That is a person who knew the walls and ramparts of the holy city and lived within according to the Will of God.
That is what God is asking of each of us: not to worry about what is outside the walls, but rather, to stay within the walls of the city that He has established - His Church, built on the rock - so that when the winds blow and the rains come nothing is going to happen. It will be a storm; it will be nasty at times, but it is not going to fall down. It is guaranteed that it will not fall down. And so, we are completely safe and completely protected provided that we do not try to do it our own way, provided we do not trust in ourselves, but that we look at Him and we do not simply call on His Name, but rather, we seek in all things to do the Will of God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.