Thursday May 23, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (St. James 5:1-6) Gospel (St. Mark 9:41-50)
Our Lord tells us today in the Gospel reading that if our hand causes us to sin, cut it off - if our foot causes us to sin, cut it off. Whatever is the cause of sin is what needs to go. Not that our eye itself can actually cause us to sin, the eye is simply what we would use to sin – or the hand, or whatever it might be. Every sin is an act of the will; so it is the sin itself that needs to be removed. We need to make a choice to do what is right instead of what is wrong.
Then Saint James tells us in the first reading about riches and wealth and the problem that they are. The Lord also tells us about that. He tells us it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. People try to weasel their way around that, but there isn’t any weaseling around that. What happens is that when we grow wealthy – no matter what kind of wealth we want to say it is – we learn to rely on the money, we learn to rely on the self, we learn to rely on the boss, we learn to rely on something or someone other than God. When we have to rely on God, we stay close to Him; we pray and we trust because we have no choice.
One way or the other we must understand, as Saint James makes very clear, that we are storing up for ourselves treasure for the last days. Jesus says, "Store up treasure in Heaven where it will not become corroded, where the moth is not going to eat it, where nothing is going to happen to it." Most of us are more interested in storing up treasure for the immediate. But it is not treasure for the immediate; it is treasure for the last days. Unfortunately, if that is the case, the last days are not going to be in Heaven; but rather, for eternity we can spend it with what we decided was our treasure.
If God is not our treasure then something else is, and we have made a choice. Remember that our eternity is decided in this world, not in the next. If we make our choice for anything other than God, then we can spend eternity with the choice we have made. What good is money, fancy cars, big houses, new clothes, all the fancy junk? What good is it going to do you in hell (putting it rather bluntly)? Do you think anybody in hell is going to be impressed with all the junk and all the wealth? No. Neither is God on the Day of Judgment. If that is where we are putting our effort and if that is who our god has become, then we will be able to spend eternity with our little god.
But if the Lord is God, then let Him be God. Make Him the God of your life. Saint James says, "You have murdered the Righteous One and He offers you no resistance." If you want to throw God out of your life, He will go. If you want to put something in place of God, He will allow it. He is not going to fight. He is going to give you the grace to be able to see that this was the wrong decision, but the decision is yours. He gave you a free will and He will not force you to do it any other way. That is the decision that each one of us individually must make. Who is going to be our god? Now all of us would say, "The Lord is God." I would challenge you then to look at your life and ask yourself, "Is that the way I live my life? Do people recognize by the way I live that God truly is my God? Or do I just simply give Him lip service, acknowledge Him with my head, but my life is completely separate - something else has greater priority in my life than God?"
Those are the choices that we are making. Either way, we are storing up treasure for eternity; it is just a question of what side of eternity we are storing up treasure for. When we see it that way, then all of a sudden all the little false gods become much clearer to us in their falsity. We need to choose the One True God because there is only One. And it is with Him that we want to spend eternity. If it is there that we want to spend eternity, we must now make Him our priority. We must trust Him and we must love Him. We must have total faith and confidence in Him, and by loving Him, to store up for ourselves true treasure: treasure in Heaven, which nothing can take from us and nothing can destroy.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.