Thursday June 6, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Ninth Week of Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Timothy 2:8-15) Gospel (St. Mark 12:28-34)
Saint Paul, in writing to Timothy, tells him that because of the Gospel that he preached he is now in chains, even to the point of being treated as a criminal. When we stop to think of what the Gospel is about - we just heard the synopsis in the Gospel reading: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength" - it is that for which Saint Paul was thrown in prison, because of love. Now that love is going to lead him to preach the Gospel, to try to bring souls to the Lord, but it is not going to lead him to anything that is going to cause harm or hurt or any kind of criminal things to occur; rather, it is only going to lead to the service of others. It is because this world does not know what love is that when you are trying to love, first of all, you are going to look like a nut, but worse than that (from their perspective), you are going to look like a criminal because you make the rest of them look bad. And they do not like to be made to look bad; nobody does. Yet, we cannot be worried about whatever anybody else thinks or how they are going to react; we simply need to be focused on what God wants and on loving Him.
The scribe that spoke to Jesus said that to love God with your whole heart and soul and strength is worth more than any burnt offering or sacrifice. Remember the words of Saint John of the Cross: "One act of pure love is worth more than all of the other good works you have done in your entire life combined" - one act of pure love. That is exactly the point that Jesus is making. If we would love God with a pure heart, that is worth more than anything and everything in the world. It is the very purpose for which we were created.
Saint Paul goes on to tell Timothy, "If we have died with Him we will live with Him, if we persevere to the end we will also reign with Him. But if we deny Him He will deny us. If we are unfaithful He will still remain faithful because He cannot deny Himself." We know our infidelity. We know that we do not love perfectly. But we are trying so at least we have the knowledge that He will still remain faithful to everything He has promised as long as we are trying. But we must be very careful not to try to finagle our way around things and say, "Well, I havenít denied Him." If we know what we are supposed to do and we refuse to do it because we are worried about other people or whatever it might be, it is a denial of the Lord. It is not a mere infidelity; it is a denial. Our infidelities, He can deal with. The fact that we are going to fall into sin and weakness, He can handle that. But the outright denial of the Lord when we know better, that is something we are going to have to face ourselves. So we need to look very carefully at what we do and why we do it and make sure that we are trying to love God with our whole heart and soul and strength and, above all, make sure that we are not denying Him by our words and by our actions because if we deny Him before men He told us He will deny us before the angels of God.
We have to be faithful to what it is that we profess. That is the Gospel Saint Paul preached; it is the one that we believe. Even if it means that we are going to be rejected or arrested or even killed, it does not matter because if we are killed out of love, remember the Lord told us that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends. All that matters is love, and that is what it is to be faithful to the Lord. To refuse to love, to be selfish, to seek anything other than the glory of God and the good of others, is to deny the Lord. And we do not want that because we will be denied. If it is done out of weakness, that is one thing, but if it is done out of malice then we are in trouble. We need to keep working to strengthen our love so that we will be faithful to Him, knowing that He is faithful to us. If we are faithful to Him, if we do not deny Him, if we are faithful to the end, we will reign with Him. That is what this life is about: to learn to love perfectly so we will be with Him and we will reign with Him forever.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.