Tuesday June 4, 2002 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Peter 3:12-15a, 17-18) Gospel (St. Mark 12:13-17)
Our Lord tells us today that we are to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but we are to give to God what belongs to God. Yesterday, we talked about what belongs to God. We saw that God is going to expect from each one of us His share of the grapes at the harvest time. And how many of the grapes belong to God? All of them. So if we are going to give to God what belongs to God that means to get rid of the things that do not belong to Him, and make sure that everything else is being directed to God. Just as the people were able to say to Jesus, "We know you donít care about anybody elseís opinion. You teach the truth of God," that is what we have to be about. We have to be about the truth; we have to be about doing what is right; we have to be about seeking the Lord. And it is not just part time; it is every moment of every day. It is trying to live our lives for the Lord.
Now, for most of us, that would seem to be something that would grate against our dignity. We want God as part of our lives, but do we really want God to be our whole life? Do we really want it to be in such a way that there is nothing left of us and everything is God? The answer is "yes". What do we think Heaven is going to be? That is why you cannot get into Heaven until you are perfect. There is Purgatory to purify anything which is not of God.
God is not going to destroy your person; what He will do is to perfect it. In other words, if you get to the point where you are perfect, where all that remains is what is of God, then you will be the person that God made you to be. If we go the other way and we say, "No, I just want to do what I want" Ė which is what we see the vast majority of people in our society doing Ė then what we are going to find is people who try to make themselves. There will be nothing left of what God made, nothing left of what God intended for that person.
God wants us to be perfectly happy, to be perfectly joyful, to be perfectly fulfilled, to be perfectly content in Him. But the only way that is going to happen is if it is Him, if it truly is in Him. The world tells us that will take away who we are, but it wonít; that will fulfill who God made us to be. So we need to be about this point of losing the self, dying to self in order to live for God.
All we have to do is look at the first reading and ask, "Is this really what we ought to be doing, and where are the priorities?" Saint Peter tells us that we are waiting for the day of the Lord - in fact, we are to hasten it - the day when all of the heavens and all of the elements will be melted away in fire. All of it is going to be gone! We spend so much time and effort trying to be able to obtain things that are going to be burned up, but the Lord says that we are supposed to store up treasure in Heaven because that will not be able to be destroyed. When we see that all of it is passing away, then we have to look at it as Qoheleth did and say, "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!" What good is it all? The Lord will provide for us what is necessary for our lives, everything else we need to be seeking in Him and for Him. That is the part that is going to be important. That is the part that is going to last.
When we look around and wonder why God has tolerated all of this, it is because He loves us. Saint Peter tells us that we have to consider the patience of the Lord as salvation. God wants as many people saved as possible. Since most of us would be storing up what belongs to Caesar and not what belongs to God, if Godís patience had not been so astounding, so long-suffering, most of us probably would not be saved because we were putting all of our treasures in the wrong bucket and it was not stored up in Heaven. And so, in His patience, God has worked out our salvation, and continues to work that out, and continues to work out the salvation of countless other souls. We need to pray for those people, for others, for conversions, that they will come to the Lord, that they will recognize that all the things of this world are passing away, but the things of God are eternal.
We want to be able to be formed into the persons that God created us to be. Saint Peter tells us, "Be on your guard not to be led into the error of the unprincipled and fall away from your stability. But grow in grace and the knowledge of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Your stability is God. Your stability is to be the person God created you to be. But if we fall into the error of the unprincipled, it is going to be to get ourselves caught up in all the things of this world and totally lose our focus on the next and the stability which is ours in Christ.
If we want greater stability, greater peace, greater joy, greater love, greater happiness - all these things - it is going to be found in only one place. And that is not in more junk; but rather, it is in the Lord Jesus Christ, in the knowledge and the love of God and of His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. That is where our stability, joy, and peace are going to come from, and only from there. That is where we need to put our focus. Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar; that is, all the junk we have stored up. Give to God what belongs to God; that is, your entire being and all the good works. He wants it all. He does not want a little portion of it; God wants all of the share of His grapes. He wants all of you because when you give Him everything of yourself, what you will receive in return is everything of Himself. That is a pretty wonderful exchange. You give back to God what He has given to you, which is yourself, and He will replace it with Himself; and you will be the person that He created you to be.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.