Friday June 14, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Kings 19:9a, 11-16) Gospel (St. Matthew 5:27-32)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord continues with the same points of showing us where things were in the Old Covenant and where they are now in the New Covenant, and that in the New Covenant we are held to a far greater responsibility. It is not just a matter that if one commits adultery one violates the Sixth Commandment, but even if one has lust for another one violates the Sixth Commandment.
We see the exact same pattern in the first reading. It is interesting that that is the Gospel we have today, because in the first reading we hear about Elijah going to Mount Horeb. Mount Horeb is the same as Mount Sinai; so Elijah climbs the mountain where the Ten Commandments were given. We recall that when the people of Israel first came to Mount Sinai they were able to find God in the power of the Lord. He was there in the wind; He was there in the earthquake; He was there in the fire. But with Elijah, He was not there in any of those things - but only in the tiny whispering sound. If we liken that to the commandments that were given, the people of Israel initially recognized the violation of the commandments when they were large violations, when they were complete and direct violations. But the Lord is letting us see now that even in the tiniest whispering sound there can be a violation of those commandments, even in the movements of the heart. It does not have to be in the outward actions, it does not have to be in the direct violation of the commandments, but in the spirit of the commandments as well.
We see, then, that same pattern: As one moves along in the spiritual life - or as it is for the Church, as one continues to progress in understanding God - then we also progress beyond what is obvious to what is far more subtle. We begin to recognize that it is not just in major and direct violations of the commandments that we have violated God, but it is also in the smaller things. Remember, Our Lord did not tell us that we simply have to follow the commandments. He told the rich young man that he needed to follow the commandments and then - if he wanted to be perfect - he was to sell everything that he had, give it to the poor, and then come and follow Him. So again, He calls us to something more, to something beyond what is just the obvious. For each one of us, He will look at us and command us, first of all, to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect; then He goes on to show us what that means. It is not simply a matter of following the Ten Commandments externally, but it is following the commandments in the heart, living not only the letter of the law, but living the spirit of the law and taking that all the way to the greatest degree so that we are not violating God or neighbor, even in the smallest things. But rather, what we are trying to do is uphold the dignity of our neighbor and to glorify God in our thoughts and our words and our actions, as well as in the desires and even in the movements of the heart. That is the goal for us as Christian people.
Because of our knowledge of the Lord, because of the new commandments, because of the sacraments, because of the spiritual life, because of our union with Jesus Christ, we are held to a higher accountability and to a far greater responsibility. We need to keep that very clearly in mind. We need to strive to live according to the spirit of God's love, which is not a generic sort of thing, saying, "Well, as long as I'm in the ballpark." The spirit of the law is to live it more perfectly, more completely - even in the smallest details and in the movements of the heart.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.