Thursday June 13, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Kings 18:41-46) Gospel (St. Matthew 5:20-26)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord makes very clear to us that we as Christian people are going to be held to a far higher accountability than anyone else. He tells us that it says in the law "You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment", but then He goes on to tell us that whoever is angry with his brother is going to be liable to judgment, and whoever says, "You fool," is going to be liable to the fires of hell.
When we think about that and think about what goes on in our day to day lives, this is not an easy thing. The Lord is telling us that as Christian people we do not have a right to hold a grudge against anyone, to refuse to forgive anyone, or even to be angry at anyone. Just think what goes on when you are driving down the freeway or when you see various things on television or whatever it might be. It is so easy to react with anger and for these flippant little words to pop out of your mouth. They are not necessarily vulgar words, but they are words that are not charitable; and Our Lord calls us to charity.
The only way we are going to be able to do this is with the help of His grace. We know fully well that this is not possible for us on a natural level; we cannot do it by ourselves. But the Lord would not ask us to do something that is impossible so He is going to give us the grace to be able to do it. We see the kind of righteousness, then, that we have to have. It is not an external righteousness, but it is a true internal righteousness; it is one which is truly holy.
We see some of that in the first reading. Here we have Elijah on Mount Carmel with Ahab. We have to remember that this is the same Ahab who said to Elijah at one point when he saw him, "Have you found me out, my enemy?" This is the way that Elijah was looked at by Ahab - Elijah was his enemy; and here, Elijah invites Ahab to come to Mount Carmel. This, again, is the same Ahab who was worshiping false gods and doing all kinds of horrible stuff. Yet, Elijah says to him, "Now, go eat and drink before it starts to rain." It was because of him that there was a drought for three years on the land.
Now Elijah is going to pray for rain, and we see the kind of prayer that we have to have: it is persevering. Elijah goes up and seven times sends his servant out to look over the sea. He just sits there and prays because he knows that God's Will is going to be done. He just continues to pray. That is the way it needs to with us. We need to pray for our enemies, the Lord told us; and we need to bless them and pray for our persecutors. That is the kind of righteousness that He is looking for. He is not looking for self-righteousness which says, "It's okay for me to be angry and hold a grudge." He is looking for divine righteousness. He is looking for God's righteousness within each one of us, and that is only possible in deep prayer because charity is going to be possible only with that deep prayer; and God is calling us to charity.
So that is the challenge Our Lord puts before us today: We must have a profound righteousness. He is asking us to pray and to make changes in our lives so that we overcome all of our faults and that our righteousness will be the actual righteousness of Jesus Christ, that we will be truly holy, that we will be one with God and with His Will, and that the virtue we will live will be the virtue of Our Lord Himself.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.